Student filmmakers were nearly fired at by police in California on Thursday while shooting a robbery drama at a coffee shop down the street from the Glendora Police station.
Eight on-duty police officers responded to a frantic 911 call around 7:19 p.m. from a citizen who thought she was witnessing an armed robbery at Classic Coffee Café, unaware that it was staged by the filmmakers.
In the 911 call, a woman tells the operator, "Classic Coffee on Glendora Avenue is getting robbed. … I could see two men with bandannas over their face and I could see one pulled a gun out of his pocket."
Responding officers were fooled, too.
"Officers arrive and see no indications other than it being an armed robbery in progress," said Glendora Police Capt. Tim Staab. "They don't see anything out front indicating there is filming going on. … We hadn't been notified, and outside, because it was an amateur film crew, there were no trucks or equipment or people milling about."
The officers surrounded the café, and two of them entered and saw men with weapons, wearing masks, hoodies over their heads and gloves, Staab said. A suspect holding an assault rifle immediately put the rifle down. The other one, later determined to be an actor, wasn't putting down the gun even as officers yelled at him to drop the weapon, Staab added.
"They had no concept about how much danger they were in, so he held onto the gun, and when he didn't drop the gun, the backing officer had already made the decision, since he wasn't complying with officers, that if he had made any movement, he would have shot the suspect," Staab said. "The lead officer grabbed the gun out of the suspect's hand, put it on the floor, placed the suspect on the ground, and that's when the sergeant looked up and saw the film crew.
"The sergeant said, 'What are you doing?'" Staab said. "They respond, 'We're filming a movie.' "
Apparently, the students did get permission from the café owner to shoot their film, but did not notify police or apply for any filming permits from the city.
The café owner declined to comment.
The film's director, Colton Sullivan, did not return calls seeking comment.
Staab said that no police report was filed because no crimes were alleged, and police were thankful no one was hurt.
Fake guns are required by law to have orange tips or other indicators to help officers differentiate them from real ones, but these guns did not. It is illegal to alter the orange markings by covering with black marker, which this crew did, though Staab said no charges will be pressed.
"I would call it reckless," Staab said. "I understand they are college-aged film students who didn't put much thought into what they were doing, and didn't realize just how dangerous it was. There are not many situations in this world more dangerous than having a gun in your hand with cops responding. They were very polite and apologetic and respectful. We lectured them and sent them on their way."