Cameras flashing and films rolling, a crowd of paparazzi surrounded a police escort, trying to get the perfect shot of Britney Spears’ little sister as she left the Los Angeles International Airport.
Just one snag: The woman wasn’t Jamie Lynn Spears.
In what appears to be a case of the old switcharoo, airport police on Wednesday duped paparazzi at the crowded terminal by leading an unidentified woman — wearing sunglasses and looking away from cameras — down an escalator and through a hallway while the real Jamie Lynn and her baby girl safely left the airport from another area.
Police denied any trickery and said they were not escorting the woman.
“All (the officers) did was follow the crowd down to the baggage area,” said Sgt. Jim Holcomb of the Los Angeles airport police. “The people they were following assumed that this was Spears because she was blonde.”
Despite the denial, a video posted by TMZ showed several officers tucked in tight around the woman, some giving paparazzi repeated warnings to “keep backing up” and “keep moving.”
Several in the crowd greeted the woman with, “Hello, Jamie,” and “How’s the baby?” and later learned she was a decoy.
Holcomb said it’s against department policy to provide security for celebrities, but officers were willing to do it after the Spears family asked for an escort for Jamie Lynn, her baby, her mother and her older sister Britney, who ended up being a no-show.
“If there’s extenuating circumstances, we can do what we need to do,” Holcomb said. “If there was no baby — hey, you’re on your own. You’re an adult.”
He said police were concerned with the possibility of shoving in the crowd of 100 photographers and about 50 Delta Air Lines employees waiting for the group.
Holcomb said celebrity treatment is nearly impossible to get at the airport.
“A lot of times someone will call and tell us that they’re coming in with a bunch of cars. They just want to park at the curb, and we always say, ‘No,”’ Holcomb said. “They want recognition, some attention paid to them.”
Holcomb said the incident is under review, but added that such debriefings are not unusual.
“I think someone got the best of the paparazzi this time,” Holcomb said.
A message left with Jamie Lynn Spears’ publicist was not immediately returned Thursday night.
The 17-year-old actress, the younger sister of pop singer Britney Spears, starred in Nickelodeon’s “Joey 101” and won a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite TV actress in 2006.