SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - It wasn’t in the script, but a real police officer fired his gun at an actor portraying an armed robber during a movie filming last week at a bar in central Indiana.
Crawfordsville police have released body camera video of the incident in which Sgt. Matt Schroeter fired his gun, unaware that Montgomery County Movies was shooting a robbery scene just before 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Backstep Brewing Company on North Green Street in Crawfordsville.
It must have been a realistic scene, because someone called 911 to report a possible armed robbery, and when Crawfordsville police arrived, “a subject came out with a ski mask on carrying a handgun,” according to Indiana State Police.
The subject, actually actor Jim Duff, was “backing out of the door with the mask on and still holding the gun,” which was actually a movie prop, state police said.
Then things got dicey.
According to Crawfordsville police: “Upon arrival at the area, officers approached the business involved. A masked subject holding a handgun exited the building. Officers made commands for the subject to ‘drop the gun.’ The subject did not immediately comply with the officers commands and raised the gun pointing it at the officer. An officer fired a single shot which did not strike the subject. Officers again issued commands for the subject to ‘drop the gun,’ at which time he did comply.”
“The officers felt their lives were in danger and fired at the suspect. The subject dropped the gun and pulled off the mask while telling the officers this is a movie set,” state police said.
Fortunately, no one was injured, though a bullet ricocheted off the building, chipping the facade.
Philip Demoret, owner of Montgomery County Movies, said in a statement: “During the scene, a masked robber was suppose to flee the place after being intimidated by the patrons inside. Once outside, from what witnesses could hear and see, the actor complied with the police, removed his mask, and a gunshot was fired.”
The film crew and other actors, all inside at the time of the confrontation, were unaware of what was going on, he said.
Demoret thanked Crawfordsville police “for their hasty response to what they thought was a crime being committed. Had it been a real robbery, the police were quick to the scene, and the situation would have been diffused promptly.”
State police said neither the film company, nor the bar owners, notified police or local businesses about the filming.
Crawfordsville police said, “We ask, for obvious safety purposes, that our department be notified of future instances where toy or prop weapons are going to be used.”
Demoret said the company is “working with local law enforcement to put a plan in place so this doesn’t happen again. Safety should be of the highest priority, and communication could have spared all of us from the incident…”
Duff was initially taken into custody until his story was authenticated, and he was released.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Joseph Buser announced that after reviewing the evidence, including officer body cam footage and film crew footage, no charges will be filed.
ISP is investigating the police use of force.
Crawfordsville is located in west central Indiana, about 20 miles south of Lafayette and 80 miles east of Champaign.
Mayor Todd Barton said in a statement: “I have the utmost confidence in our officers and their split-second response to the situation with which they found themselves faced. … We were very fortunate that this did not have a tragic outcome and we greatly appreciate the support we have received from the community as officers and those involved work through the emotional impact of these events.”
Barton said the body cam video proved invaluable.
“The value of body cameras cannot be overemphasized as they provide a clear, accurate record of rapidly unfolding events and are not subject to the inherent memory weaknesses of those who’ve been through a traumatic event.”