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Bodyguards for Rihanna and Chris Brown assault tbt* photographer

Tbdluismug050708_2 Our very own paparazzo Luis Santana, 25 (right), was beaten and robbed early Tuesday morning near Vintage Ultra Lounge in downtown St. Pete while trying to take pictures of Chris Brown celebrating his 19th birthday.

Luis got word that Brown and Rihanna (who may or may not be Brown's girlfriend, since they refuse to confirm it to celebrity rags) were at a private party at the club, so he headed on over to help us provide your daily dose of dish. He talked to Vintage security and was told he could take photographs outside, Santana said.

After the club closed at 2 a.m., he waited outside for another half-hour or so, catching sight of Brown as he left. He said bodyguards told the hip-hopper to get in the black Excursion or Expedition limousine waiting outside the club, where Luis managed to take a couple pics of the performer.

Tbdrihanna050708_3 Bodyguards chased him into the street, ripping his shirt and forcing him to the ground, breaking his camera flash and lens, Santana said. One guard put his knee on Santana's jaw and when he tried to push it away, the guards took the camera, worth about $3,000.

"I was yelling, 'Call the police! Call the police!' " Santana said. "Then one of the guys said, 'I am the police.' "

Santana said he has abrasions and bruises on his chest, back and arms. Police said there could be four male suspects who are bodyguards, but their names are unknown. The suspects left the scene in the limousine.

"I’ve shot many many celebrities and this was just another notch on my belt," Santana said. "Then it just turned sour."

James Guttridge, manager of Vintage Ultra Lounge, said the club instructs security personnel not to get involved in altercations that happen outside the club. Guttridge said guards do not have the authority to prohibit photographers from shooting pictures outside the club, on the public right-of-way.

"Our only concern is what happens inside here," Guttridge said.

Guttridge called the incident "unfortunate" and said he hopes celebrities will feel welcome in St. Petersburg, but also doesn't want residents to be turned off.

Santana says he believed the incident was retaliatory after he took photos of Rihanna at International Plaza on Monday afternoon (like this photo shown here). He said Rihanna's bodyguard pushed him at the mall, and the same bodyguard attacked him outside Vintage. Rihanna opened for Kanye West at the Ford Amphitheatre earlier that night.

And as an aside, a lot of you know Luis from working the clubs eevry weekend to get you in tbt* and our online photo gallery at Drop him a line to wish him well.

[Photo: Luis Santana/tbt*; reporting by Stephanie Garry, St. Pete Times; and yours truly]

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:43am]


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