It's Only a Movie, D.C. Residents Are Told After Witnessing Staged Police Raid

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kelly Craven was reading a children's book to three toddlers in the basement of her Northwest Washington home when a frantic call arrived from a neighbor.

"What's going on outside your house?" the neighbor asked. "There are police running around with guns."

When Craven and her Takoma neighbors learned that a crew was filming a staged police raid, they were not amused. They also have a piece of advice for filmmakers and off-duty police officers: If you're going to act out such a dramatic scene in a residential neighborhood, let people know beforehand.

"I was terrified," Craven, who babysits for children in the neighborhood, said yesterday.

The production crew from Silver Spring-based Sirens Media had hired off-duty Montgomery County officers last week to film a "dramatic reenactment" for a documentary called "Prison Wives." Officials with the company acknowledged yesterday that residents were not properly given a heads-up. News of the reenacted raid was previously reported by WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and the Washington Examiner.

Sirens Media said yesterday that its film crew initially did not know it was in the District instead of Montgomery County. The error of less than a quarter-mile had Sirens apologizing for not obtaining the right permits and Montgomery County police examining whether its officers followed proper procedures for off-duty work.

"We understand the concerns of residents on that street. That's why we're taking this seriously," said Lt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery County police spokesman. Still, he said, the onus of warning the neighbors should have fallen to the production company, which set up the operation.

Lesly Baesens, who lives next door to the scene of the fake raid, had just stepped out of the shower last Wednesday when she heard noises and peered out a window. She saw officers in black SWAT-type gear, some of them yelling.

"I freaked out. I called Julie," Baesens said.

Julie Schor had had her own scare earlier.

She was working in her home office when she heard yelling, looked outside and saw officers with guns. A flier about the reenactment would have been nice, Schor said.

On the set were four off-duty Montgomery officers, four squad cars, one actor, four crew members and one camera, according to Sirens Media and residents. The crew repeatedly filmed the officers and the actor entering a home. Residents said they heard the officers yelling, "Police! Search warrant! Open up!"

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company