Film students create robbery scene in LA

Allie Kolechta

Police helicopters circled overhead and several Longhorns spent some of the last moments of their semester in the UTLA program in handcuffs after a misunderstanding with police last week.

The Los Angeles Police Department rushed to a liquor store in North Hollywood after receiving a call that mistook a student film shoot for a burglary in progress. The officers were called out to the scene before they were informed of the filming permit, said Sgt. William Mann of LAPD’s North Hollywood division. He said no arrests were made.

“I don’t know of anything like this in the recent past, but it’s not surprising that something like this would happen,” he said.

Radio-television-film senior Shayan Asgharnia was working audio when he heard a megaphone outside of the store and saw a cop car outside. After being asked to walk backwards out of the building one-by-one with their hands in the air, each person was handcuffed and questioned. The police let them go after hearing all corroborating stories and being shown the filming permit.

“They were incredibly professional,” Asgharnia said. “LAPD, despite any kind of history they’ve had, they were incredibly nice. One of them was even like, ‘This happens all the time.’”

Several customers had arrived at the store and were told to leave because the students had paid for their filming time there. One old woman knocked and then came back when the ordeal was ending, and the students suspect that she was the one who dialed 9-1-1 despite being shown the cameras and equipment, Asgharnia said.

The students were told that the organization who provided the permit would inform the police, but evidently, they did not, Asgharnia said.

“It was one of those moments where it was a little surreal, but at the same time, there was humor in it, probably because we didn’t buy that it was actually happening,” he said. “We were in our last week of UTLA. We ended it with a bang without a literal gunshot.”

Francisco Cortez, assistant manager of the House of Ambrose liquor store, was on duty the night the students came in to film the robbery scene. The store was closed, but someone must have seen the actors from outside and called the police, he said.

“Even helicopters and news helicopters came,” he said. “They had handcuffs on every person in the store. They had shotguns and all kinds of guns pointing at everybody. They meant business.”

Printed on Monday, November 28, 2011: UTLA students' film shoot mistaken for real burglary