MODESTO — A paparazzo hit by a car and killed while trying to photograph Justin Bieber's car in Los Angeles last week was from Modesto, where a funeral was conducted Thursday, paid for by actor Charlie Sheen.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, 29-year-old Christopher Guerra was hit by a sport utility vehicle while crossing Sepulveda Boulevard off of Interstate 405 on New Year's Day after trying to take pictures of the pop star's Ferrari.
Bieber reportedly was not in the car, which was driven by a friend who had been pulled over for speeding.
A funeral for Guerra, a 2001 graduate of Johansen High School, was held at the Modesto Special Events Center.
Guerra owned his own landscaping business for a few years and worked for a summer youth program in Las Vegas before getting his dream job as a photographer for GSI Media, according to his mother, Vicky Guerra.
She said her son got his start free-lancing at film festivals before being hired by GSI Media and moving to Los Angeles last year.
"He was very passionate about his work and loved what he did. He was always respectful and never had a camera in someone's face," she said after her son's funeral Thursday.
Vicky Guerra said her son was proud of his accomplishments and enjoyed his work, recalling a video he sent her of himself in his car with his laptop and cameras.
"This is my office. I get to do this every day and I love it," Guerra told his mother in the video.
His death sparked renewed debate about laws governing photographing of celebrities.
In a statement to the media, Bieber said, "Hopefully, this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders and the photographers themselves."
A case involving Bieber was the first test of a 2010 California law that made it a crime to violate certain traffic laws to photograph or take video of a person for a commercial purpose. It is punishable by six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
A judge threw out two charges against a free-lance photographer who was accused of chasing Bieber through the San Fernando Valley, saying it was too broad because it covers activities covered by the First Amendment, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, a retired LAPD sergeant, told the Daily News that Guerra's death "is another example of the kind of tragedy we keep trying to prevent."
The news that Sheen donated $12,000 to Guerra's family to cover his funeral expenses was reported by the celebrity gossip and entertainment news site TMZ. The site said Sheen was motivated to make the donation because he is friends with another photographer who was close to Guerra.
"A tragic incident like this erases the line between the photographer and the subject. It's an unforgiving moment that begs us all to be human and work as one to prevent this in the future," Sheen said in a statement to TMZ.
Guerra is survived by parents Juan Jose and Vicky Guerra, brothers Juan Jose Guerra Jr., Sean Guerra, Cameron Guerra and sister Chantel Guerra, all of Modesto.
"He was a loving, generous son, who loved life and loved his family and friends and will be very, very missed," Vicky Guerra said.
Research specialist Karen Aiello contributed to this report.