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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle personally decided to walk in front of the group of photographers outside the Ziegfeld Ballroom on Tuesday night — who they later blamed for an allegedly “near-catastrophic car chase.”
The couple’s decision was made despite their security being led by a former member of Barack Obama’s Secret Service detail known as “the king of the back exits” for his ability to quietly get celebrities out of high-profile situations.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were accompanied by Chris Sanchez, a renowned ex-Secret Serviceman, as they left the Ziegfeld Ballroom on Tuesday night.
Sanchez was with the Sussexes as they jumped from a blacked-out SUV into a yellow taxi while trying to escape from the photographers who were trying to follow them back to a friend’s home.
A source close to the Sussexes told us the couple decided to walk out the back of the ballroom around 10 p.m. because they wanted to give waiting photographers a shot of them.
“Harry and Meghan were willing to give everyone those shots when they left the event, that was not the problem, but they were tailed from that point on,” the source said.
Their rep, Ashley Hansen, told the New York Times Friday: “They were some
of the most beautiful images of the evening,”
The couple, however, did not stop to pose. Photographs show an initially smiling Harry leading his wife by the hand, with his expression then turning to a scowl.
Finally a large group of security blocked photographers trying to photograph them getting into their waiting SUV.
Harry, 38, took video in the car ride to capture the moment, Page Six is told, as he told friends prompted him to swear “f—k” out loud, admitting it was the closest he had ever felt to understanding the night of his mother’s, Princess Diana’s death, in a car crash in August 1997.
He filmed as one photographer drove up alongside them on a sidewalk and a car nearly shunted into another car.
Michael Stewart, a New York-based freelance photographer, told friends how he chose
to follow the couple on his electric bike for half an hour, the NYT reported, telling people there were six cars involved in the melee — three belonging to the Sussexes and three
belonging to photographers who were in pursuit. Around half a dozen were on bikes.
Another photographer involved in the incident, Martin Patterson, known as Blayze, also followed the couple. He told the NYT: “There is nothing for the public or the police to actually be concerned about. The facts are out there. Exactly what you see is what it is there.”
Kevin Mazur was the sole photographer with full access at the Ms. Foundation gala, leaving other shutterbugs fuming. Most are paid only when they have photographs published. It is also unusual for red carpets to have just one photographer.
Freelance photographer Roger Wong told the NYT the others were left to photograph the Sussexes through the glass when they arrived and were whisked into the theater via a Hertz office — he went home empty-handed.
But this has all sparked questions about how the debacle came to pass, as one highly-placed source told us: “Chris is one of the best security men out there, he’s extremely savvy.
“He’s been with Harry and Meghan countless times – including with them in New York – and made sure they were not seen.
“He’s honestly known as the king of the back exits and can help get his principals (clients) out without ever being seen, so I have no clue how this all happened,” the source added.
Speaking to CNN this week, Sanchez alleged of the incident: “I have never seen, experienced anything like this. What we were dealing with was very chaotic. There were about a dozen vehicles: cars, scooters and bicycles.
“The public [was] in jeopardy at several points. It could have been fatal. They were jumping curbs and red lights. At one point they blocked the limousine (carrying the couple) and started taking pictures until we were able to get out,” he added.
However, photo agency Backgrid said that no one was in any danger.
After leaving the Secret Service, Sanchez became a vice president at TorchStone Global, a firm with offices in cities including New York City, Chicago, Boston and Palo Alto, California.
He was first spotted with the Sussexes at the Invictus Games in The Hague, Netherlands, in April 2022.
He is also believed to have joined the couple when they came to the Global Citizen concert in Central Park in September 2021.
Before joining the royal couple’s entourage, Sanchez spent five years working for the U.S. government. He has more than two decades of security experience in areas including crisis management, site vulnerability assessment and threat protection.
Sanchez said he “was concerned about the principals (Harry and Markle), but more about the public because they (the paparazzi) were being so erratic. People were on sidewalks and crossing streets and the (paparazzi) were crossing red lights. We did everything by the letter of law.”
Harry and Meghan switched cars “more than once” during the car chase, Sanchez said.
After the incident, the Sussexes were “scared, exhausted, but relieved to be back,” he added.
In the end, no one was injured and the couple arrived safely, but shaken, at the apartment where they were staying, he said.
Police later said the incident was “challenging” but there were no collisions and no one was hurt.
And Sonny Singh, the taxi driver whose cab they got into, also played down the idea of a chase, telling The Post that while they seemed “nervous,” it was not a full-on car chase. “They were quiet and seemed scared but it’s New York — it’s safe,” he said.
Although the couple has, in the past, gone to great lengths not to be photographed – and have been notoriously privacy-obsessed — they have been snapped in public at least four times in California over the past few months.
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