By Michael R. Sisak, Bobby Caina Calvan, and Danica Kirka
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, were pursued in their car by photographers after a charity event in New York, an incident that the mayor and the couple’s office described Wednesday as potentially dangerous and stirred memories of the 1997 car crash that killed Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.
With the help of police, the couple was eventually able to switch to a taxi cab and be whisked away, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and did so on condition of anonymity.
The cab driver, Sukhcharn Singh, told The Associated Press that he instantly recognized his passengers when they scooted in. “They were following us the whole time,” he said of the paparazzi, though he said he wouldn’t call it a chase.
The New York City police department confirmed the incident involving photographers and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but said no injuries, collision or arrests took place after Meghan accepted an award from the Ms. Foundation.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams told reporters he hadn’t received a full briefing yet, but he called it “reckless and irresponsible” for anyone to be chasing people in vehicles in the densely populated city, and said two officers could have been injured.
Harry and Meghan’s office said in a statement that the chase “resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.” It called the incident “near catastrophic.”
“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 statement from the couple said.
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.
He 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.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had been in New York to accept the Women of Vision Award with Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown.
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.
The event 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.
Video taken by bystanders and posted on social media showed Harry and Meghan exiting Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Ballroom and getting into an SUV as crowds of pedestrians and photographers gawked.
They were followed by photographers and, aided by police officers assisting their private security detail, went to a police station about 18 blocks away. They spent several minutes there waiting for the situation to de-escalate and, once it was safe, left in a yellow taxi cab, according to the law enforcement official.
Singh, the cab driver, was on 67th Street near an NYPD precinct when a security guard waved him down. Singh pulled the yellow taxi to the curb and in came Harry, Meghan and her mom.
“They had this look on their faces,” he said. They were about to give their destination when a garbage truck blocked their path.
"All of a sudden paparazzi came out and started taking pictures,'' he said.
Instead, one of the royals 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; Jill Lawless and Brian Melley in London contributed. Julie Walker and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
UPDATES: Minor edits. ; Updates headline, lead photo. Corrects that police precinct is 18 blocks from the ballroom, and that taxi driver picked up the couple on 67th street