As soon as the $170,000 imported Bentley stopped next to a Toyota dealership in Universal City after a three-hour low-speed chase with police that ended where it had begun, there were live shots from ABC 7 of many people running toward the scene. News media, sure, along with one of ABC 7's reporters also on the scene. But also paparazzi, believing by that point that there may have been someone famous in the car. Considering the details let forth by news outlets while the chase was going on, such as the police going after the man for an assault on his girlfriend with a deadly weapon and the fact that the Grammys had concluded the night before (though why would any music star stay in L.A. longer than necessary unless there was business to conduct there and even then, why would they hang out in Universal City towards 8 p.m. anyway?), there was the most obvious person to think of and it was the name the news stations were not bandying about because no lawsuit is ever welcome.
I thought it was Chris Brown too, considering what he had done to Rihanna, based on what's supposedly been known so far. And as the features of this Bentley were described, though mentioned to have Illinois license plates, who wouldn't believe at that moment that it was him, what with his music career now threatened to end?
As soon as the broadcast of ABC 7 was over on TV, I immediately went to the live feed on the their website, which lasted until 12:45 a.m. There was one point when a cameraman from the station got a close-enough shot of the man inside the car, as close as can be with tinted windows. A beard, a gun to his head at one point, and sunglasses. No, this couldn't be him. Much as the people from TMZ and other paparazzi agencies (call TMZ a gossip website all you want, but they chase the story as much as those other photographers do) would have liked it to be someone famous, even him, that wasn't the case, as evidenced by the news from the L.A. Times this morning that the standoff ended when the Pakistani businessman shot himself and later died at a nearby hospital.
And now there's even more information, that this man, Mustafa "Moe" Mustafa, was a former luxury car dealer:
So nothing in L.A. is ever that easy to figure out, and nothing in L.A. is ever that easy, period. Most celebrities try to stay away from those public streets anyway, unless they've decided to give it all up for some crazy reason. And that hasn't happened, not like that, at least not in our time. But then, I don't pay much attention to celebrity news anyway, only in passing on my way to reading other stories not dealing with them.
UPDATE at 4:14: An L.A.-centric website called LAist has a far better recap of the car chase than I could ever manage: http://laist.com/2009/02/09/chris_brown_car_chase_lapd_says_no.php
I know car chases happen in L.A. often, but I was really struck still by this one. Mainly because all the others I've seen on TV simply stop abruptly, police jump out of their vehicles and either have their guns out at the car, demanding out loud that the suspect get out of the car, or chase after the suspect on foot after he's decided to do the same. There's no name to the person, just that person small from the vantage point of a helicopter.
But this one, with all the speculation, with how long that man stayed in the car, I was just floored because here I was, working on the Freelance Daily newsletter, and here was this guy in Universal City, and who knows what was going through his head? Me and him, two entirely disparate people, and still I wondered. Still I was curious, just like I am when I stand near two tables at a concrete section with railings, across from the handicapped spaces nearest the entrance in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Kelly Johnson Parkway, in Santa Clarita, looking out over a good portion of the valley, Six Flags Magic Mountain obstructed by trees a few feet away from me, thinking about what must be going on in the valley at the same time I'm looking out at that part of it. What are people doing? What's happening on the roads? Who's working in some of those office buildings right now even though it's the weekend? All those stories in this valley and in Los Angeles as well. I don't think I've ever thought as much about people as I have living here. Not even in the 19 years I spent in my native Florida. Being near L.A., and living in what is basically the backwoods of L.A., you think about a lot when it comes to people.