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Playacting of Gang Fight Mistaken for Real Thing

Mixup: Police halt the filming and arrest three men on suspicion of actual crimes. Seven guns are seized.


NORTH HOLLYWOOD — Wait a minute . . . that's not in the script!

Three men who were participating in an anti-violence public service announcement being filmed outside a local church were arrested late Thursday by Los Angeles police officers who thought a real-life gang fight was underway.

The producers of the anti-gang message had not obtained the proper permits from the city, police said.

So when officers saw a group of people dressed in gang apparel and pointing pistols and assault rifles into the air outside Victory Outreach Church on Saticoy Street about 9 p.m., they moved in.

Police seized four rifles, two revolvers and a shotgun, which had been reported stolen.

Church pastor David Martinez told police that the guns had been stored in the church basement for the past five years and had been used in many previous films shot in parks and other public areas.

The Rev. Chuck Turner said that former gang members were used as actors in the film, but that no one associated with the production was an active gangster.

"It was just a big mistake," Turner said. "That's all it was."

After officers learned about the filming, most of the participants were allowed to go free. Some, who had real-life problems to sort out with the law, were placed under arrest.

Few details were available about those who were taken into custody.

Police said one cast member, Eric Avelar, was arrested on suspicion of battery of a police officer in connection with the incident. The film's director, Robert Garfel, was arrested on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a gun. And a third man, whose name was not available from police, was taken into custody in connection with outstanding warrants.

In the future, a Police Department press release said, the LAPD will work with the Victory Outreach Church to make sure the the proper permits have been obtained before anyone yells "Action!"

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