Kanye West fell victim to the ongoing turf war between Hollywood's celebrity aristocracy and its paparazzi yesterday, when he was arrested following an altercation with photographers at Los Angeles airport.
The rap star was expected to be charged with felony vandalism after being detailed by police after becoming involved in a scuffle outside the security screening area at the airoprt as he attempted to board a flight to Hawaii early yesterday.
Details remain sketchy, and most of the information came from the two photographers involved. An airport police spokesmen confirmed that Mr West and Don Crowley, his road manager and bodyguard, were arrested and then released on $20,000 (£10,500) bail.
Neither of the photographers, who lost and equipment valued at $10,000, had been arrested, he said. The incident took place in a public area of Terminal Four which photographers are permitted to occupy.
A video of the incident was quickly posted on the showbusiness internet site TMZ. It appeared to show Mr Crowley and Mr West, who was wearing a grey hooded top, rush at a man taking their picture and grab a camera from his hands. As the photographer called for police assistance, Mr Crowley threw his camera to the floor, smashing it into several pieces. Mr West then threw his flash and viewfinder onto the ground. Shortly afterwards, airport security guards attempted to clam the situation.
A written report on TMZ, whose correspondent – a man identified only as Erik – was one of the two photographers on the scene, claimed that following the incident: "Kanye then tried to leave to board his plane, but cops stopped him before he got to security."
"The cops then interviewed Erik, the still photographer, Kanye and his assistant," it continued. "This is where it gets crazy. The cops asked Erik if he videotaped the incident and Erik said he had. That's when Kanye lunged toward him and said, 'Give me the fucking videotape'. Cops had to restrain Kanye as he tried coming at Erik."
Mr West, who is 31 and comes from Atlanta, has won nine Grammys and released three chart-topping albums. Although he has a reputation for aggressive behaviour, and has repeatedly been filmed attempting to prevent photographers taking his picture in public, he is also politically active. Recently, he has been one of Barack Obama's most prominent celebrity supporters.
News of West's arrest will fuel the growing debate about the tactics used by Hollywood's growing paparazzi corps, whose numbers have swelled to between four and five hundred, from about 25 during the early 1990s.
In several high-profile cases, including that of Britney Spears, who was sectioned earlier this year following a nervous breakdown, they have been accused of using tactics that amount to harassment.
Videos of their behaviour, which are now posted hourly on internet sites like TMZ and Hollywood.tv, show the vast numbers of photographers who can now trail a single individual. They occasionally show paparazzi hurling insults at their targets in an attempt to secure a colourful reaction.
Critics claim they present a risk to the police and members of the public, and are threatening public order. Two months ago, surfers on a beach in Malibu, became involved in a mass brawl with photographers following the actor Matthew McConaughey.
Following that incident, Los Angeles councilman Dennis Zine proposed creating a personal "safety zone" around stars requiring photographers to maintain several clear feet of distance from their targets. The proposal has yet to be fully debated.
Photographers, for their part, say that so long as they don't trespass, they are acting lawfully. They insist that any attempt to prevent them taking photographs in public would represent an infringement of their civil liberties.