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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 05, 2017 1:00 am

Indiana police shoot at actor in robbery scene

Eli Rosenberg | Washington Post

James Duff was some eight takes into the scene when he was shot at for the first time.

Wearing black ski masks and armed with airsoft guns, Duff and another actor were filming at a bar in Crawfordsville, Indiana, for a low-budget film called “10 to Fire,” a local production of mostly volunteers about a dystopic future where everyone is armed.

But unbeknownst to the actors on set, a worried citizen had called 911 to report an armed robbery in progress at the Backstep Brewery, a bar just blocks away from Crawfordsville's police station.

Duff was walking backward out of the bar with the airsoft gun in hand when the police officers arrived, in a confrontation captured in a tense video by a police body camera.

“Drop the gun!” one of the officers yelled, drawing his weapon and firing off a shot when Duff did not instantly comply. The shot missed Duff's head by about two inches, he said. The police officer continued to yell at Duff to drop the gun and get on the ground.

“We're doing a movie,” Duff told him.

“Excuse me?” The officer replied, continuing to point his gun at Duff and urging the other actors to stay inside the bar.

The story of the on-set mishap Sept. 26 has ricocheted out of this town of 16,000 northwest of Indianapolis and around the world, after the body camera footage from the officer who discharged his weapon was released this week.

No one was injured in the shooting, but Duff, a 48-year-old concrete and construction worker acting in his second movie, says he hasn't felt the same since. He remembers the bullet whizzing by his head, “a big breeze.”

“They didn't even give me a chance,” Duff said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The police said that Duff failed to release the weapon immediately - video shows him attempting to take off the mask before he drops the gun. Duff said he had just been trying to determine what was going on. He said he was handcuffed for about 10 minutes, and interviewed by detectives at the police station.

In Duff's case, the situation was compounded by a few factors. The crew had not notified the police about the filming. The airsoft guns had been clipped of their identifying orange nozzles. And Duff exited the building by himself, with the crew still filming inside and hidden from police.