NEW YORK (AP) — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, were trailed in their car by photographers as they left a New York City charity event Tuesday night, briefly taking refuge at a police station before being whisked away in a yellow taxicab.
The pursuit and media frenzy evoked memories of the 1997 car chase through Paris that killed Harry’s mother, Princess Diana — though in this case, police said, no one was hurt.
The royal couple set off alarms when their spokesperson claimed Wednesday that they had been dangerously pursued by paparazzi in a “near catastrophic car chase” through the streets of Manhattan. That account led New York City Mayor Eric Adams to condemn the paparazzi chasing them as “reckless and irresponsible."
Later, though, police said the pursuit was relatively short and led to no injuries, collisions or arrests, and warranted no further investigation. Still, it drove home real security concerns surrounding the royal couple and the trauma brought on by the death of Harry’s mother when he was just 12 years old.
The cab driver who drove them from the police station said he instantly recognized his passengers and that paparazzi “were following us the whole time,” though he said wouldn’t call it a chase.
“They had this look on their faces,” the driver, Sukhcharn Singh, said. “All of a sudden paparazzi came out and started taking pictures."
Police issued a short statement confirming an incident Tuesday night involving photographers and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who were accompanied by Meghan's mother.
Meanwhile, police in California were called this week about an episode near the couple's property in Montecito. A man was arrested shortly after 2 a.m. Monday on suspicion of prowling near the property, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the man actually entered the property. He was released on $2,500 bail after the misdemeanor arrest.
A message seeking comment on the arrest was sent Wednesday evening to a representative for the couple.
In New York on Tuesday night, the couple left Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Ballroom — where Meghan had just accepted the Ms. Foundation’s Woman of Vision Awards with Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown — and got into an SUV as crowds of pedestrians and photographers gawked, according to video posted to social media.
Harry and Meghan's vehicle was then followed by photographers in a scene that their office said “resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.” The couple’s office called the incident “near catastrophic.”
Police intervened and, assisting the couple’s private security detail, led them to a police station about 18 blocks from the ballroom, a law enforcement official told the AP.
The couple spent several minutes at the police station, waiting for the situation to de-escalate. Once it was safe, they left in a taxi, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and did so on condition of anonymity.
“While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety,” the couple’s office said in a statement.
Bruce Cotler, the president of the New York Press Photographers Association, said the way photographers allegedly acted Tuesday night violated the basic photojournalism principle of covering news “as documentarians and observers” and the code of ethics to which his members and “any press photographer with respect for themselves and the profession” are expected to adhere.
The award presentation was Meghan’s first public appearance since she skipped the coronation of her father-in-law King Charles III earlier this month in order to stay at home in California for her son Prince Archie’s fourth birthday. Harry attended the coronation.
The gala kicked off the Ms. Foundation’s largest fundraising campaign ever — $100 million over the next 12 months — that will be used to further the organization’s equity-centered initiatives and its mission of advancing women’s collective power.
With her mother, Doria Ragland, in the audience, Meghan recounted how Ms. Magazine was always in their house and how it affected her world view.
“It allowed me to recognize that part of my greater value and purpose in life was to advocate for those who felt unheard, to stand up to injustice, and to not be afraid of saying what is true and what is just and what is right,” she said, looking over at Ms. Foundation co-founder Gloria Steinem.
In a statement, the Ms. Foundation said it was “absolutely horrified” about what happened and that “Everyone, especially the media, must do better.”
Harry, the younger son of King Charles III, and the former actress Meghan Markle married at Windsor Castle in 2018. They stepped down as working royals in 2020, citing what they described as the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media.
Harry’s fury at the media has been building for years. He blames an overly aggressive press for the death of his mother, and also accuses the media of hounding Meghan.
“My deepest fear is history repeating itself,'' Harry said in a 2019 statement when Meghan filed suit against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday.
Harry has made it his mission to reform the press and is currently suing three British tabloid publishers over alleged phone hacking and other unlawful snooping. Meghan won an invasion of privacy case in 2021 against the publisher of the Daily Mail.
Security for Harry and Meghan has been an issue since the British government stripped them of protection when they moved to California in 2020 and it figures in three of his legal cases against the government and tabloid press.
The pursuit in New York occurred the same day a lawyer for Harry argued in a London court that he should be able to challenge a government decision denying him the right to pay police for his own security in the U.K.
Harry has argued his safety was “compromised due to the absence of police protection” during a short visit to the U.K. in July 2021, when his car was chased by photographers as he left a charity event.
The couple have said they funded their own security after former President Donald Trump said the U.S. government wouldn’t pay to protect them.
Singh, the cab driver, said it was one of the couple’s private security guards who flagged him down as he drove on 67th Street near the police station. Singh pulled the yellow taxi to the curb and in came Harry, Meghan and her mother.
The royals were about to give their destination when a garbage truck blocked their path, Singh said. Instead, one of them told him to circle back to the precinct.
A video posted by TMZ showed the couple in a yellow cab stuck in traffic several blocks away from the ballroom, as photographers recorded them through the windows. The cab was being escorted by NYPD vehicles with flashing lights.
“They didn’t say much,” Singh said. “They just asked my name and then after that Harry said thanks and have a good day.”
They paid $17 in fare — and left a generous tip.
“It was pretty good, man,'' Singh told The Associated Press. "They gave me a $50.”
“I mean, when I’m going around the block that’s more than enough.”
Kirka reported from London. Associated Press reporters Jill Lawless and Brian Melley in London; Julie Walker in New York; and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.