How Two People Researching A TV Show Got in a Gunfight (long)


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Oatka
January 14, 2003, 12:48 PM
Reality bites: "Life and gun battles are a hell of a lot more chaotic than they're portrayed in our pathetic profession," she says.

Why only the police and military should have guns: Twenty-one shots had been fired, and nobody was hit. The LAPD ruled last month that the officers acted correctly.

Wall Street Journal via FreeRepublic.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/822459/posts

by MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS

LOS ANGELES -- There are a million stories in this town, and any one of them could end up as a screenplay. On a cool night last summer, Todd Kessler and Jan Oxenberg -- both screenwriters -- found themselves in the middle of their own script.

The idea was to spend a few hours patrolling with the Los Angeles Police Department gang unit, meet actual gang members and add an air of verisimilitude to the new TV series they were writing, CBS's "Robbery Homicide Division." Instead, after one car ride, the writers ended up targets, witnesses and accident victims. The police ended up as actors.

The story began at sundown on Tuesday, June 18. Mr. Kessler, 30 years old, and Ms. Oxenberg, who won't talk about her age, teamed up with officers Bob Deamer, a wisecracking 40-year-old Bostonian, and Floyd Curry, a movie-star handsome 33-year-old from a Georgia military family. The four piled into the officers' police cruiser and headed through East L.A. At first, things were quiet. The officers stopped gang members and asked whether they'd mind talking to the TV writers about their lives, their nicknames, their tattoos.

Then, just before 9 p.m., the cruiser turned right onto North Mission Road, a palm-lined, four-lane street. Officer Deamer was behind the wheel. The writers were in the back seat, with a tape recorder running.

"Have you been in any gun battles?" Ms. Oxenberg asked Officer Curry.

"No. He has," Officer Curry responded, gesturing toward his partner. "I haven't."

Officer Deamer then noticed Mark Castillo, an alleged member of the Happy Valley street gang, standing by a bus bench that read, "Keep Our City Clean & Safe." The intersection was Eastlake gang turf, and Officer Deamer wondered why Mr. Castillo, a two-time felon, was several blocks into rival territory. The cops made a U-turn and drove toward him.

At that moment, the officers say, Mr. Castillo, who was 35 at the time, stepped into the street, reached behind his back and drew an East German Ernst Thaelmann semiautomatic pistol.

"Dude, dude! He's got a gun!" Officer Deamer shouted. "He's got a gun!" The dull pop-pop-pop of gunfire can be heard on Ms. Oxenberg's tape, as Officer Deamer ordered his passengers to take cover in the back seat.

Racing to return fire, Officer Curry jumped out of the squad car. In the process, he broke off parts of a herniated disk in his spine. At the time, he felt no pain, and he ran behind a palm tree, firing several shots with his .45-caliber Smith & Wesson.

Meantime, Mr. Kessler was curled up on the floor behind the passenger seat, remembering how the cops call their cars "coffins," because it's easy to get trapped inside during a gunfight.

Ms. Oxenberg was thinking about how confusing the shootout was without a narrator, and wondering why events weren't unfolding the way they do on TV. "When the bad guys shoot -- bang, bang, bang -- the police are supposed to hit them and kill them," she says now.

While Officer Curry fired, Officer Deamer drove the cruiser toward Mr. Castillo, got out and took aim from behind the driver's door. He fired several shots with his 9mm Beretta at Mr. Castillo, who was weaving his way across the road. "Got him!" Officer Deamer said triumphantly, as he watched Mr. Castillo fall.

In fact, he had missed, and Mr. Castillo got up again and headed away at a run. Officer Curry ran after him but soon saw more muzzle flashes from Mr. Castillo's gun. The officer shot his way across the street and took cover behind a telephone pole. Officer Curry then advanced to another palm tree as Mr. Castillo headed back toward him, turning to fire at Officer Deamer, the officers say.

Officer Deamer decided his best weapon was the black-and-white Ford Crown Victoria cruiser. He got back in the driver's seat, shouted once more at his passengers to get down, hunched to avoid the gunshots, and, tires squealing, accelerated into the suspect's legs. Mr. Castillo's chest hit the hood of the car, and he bounced off in a complete flip before landing on his back on Mission Road.

After the impact, Officer Deamer lost control of the vehicle and wrapped it around a small tree. Just 29 seconds had elapsed from the first "Dude!" to the moment the crash shut off the tape recorder. Mr. Kessler barreled into the back of the front passenger seat, knocking it into the dashboard. Ms. Oxenberg slammed into the back of Officer Deamer's seat, breaking a rib and injuring her neck. The inflating air bag ripped Officer Deamer's lip, and he broke a rib and injured his sciatic nerve.

Officers Deamer and Curry thought Mr. Castillo was down for the count. He wasn't. The impact had knocked the pistol from his hand, but he quickly got back on his feet, yelling, "I'm not going back to the Bay" -- an evident reference to Pelican Bay state prison. "You're going to have to kill me," Officer Curry heard him say.

Mr. Castillo then reached for his rear waistband, as if to draw another weapon as he advanced on Officer Curry behind the palm tree, the police say.

Officer Curry quickly dropped his empty clip and reloaded. "Get down on the ground," he remembers shouting. Officer Deamer's pistol was tangled up in the air bag and the team's shotgun was stuck in its holder by the front seat. So he got out and put himself between Mr. Castillo and the TV people, holding his fingers as if they were a gun and aiming at the suspect, who continued to demand to be shot.

"It became what's known as the suicide-by-cop scenario," says Mr. Kessler.

Officer Curry, however, didn't see a gun and held his fire. Mr. Castillo, who actually had no second gun, finally surrendered about eight feet from Officer Curry. The officers handcuffed him but couldn't find the weapon he had been firing. Staggering out of the car, Mr. Kessler found the pistol at his feet.

Twenty-one shots had been fired, and nobody was hit. The LAPD ruled last month that the officers acted correctly.

Afterward, police officers took dark pleasure in the fact that a couple of fancy TV people got a taste of what it's like to be a cop. The writers, who earlier had interviewed robbery-homicide detectives about their work, found themselves answering questions asked by the same detectives. Rookie cops approached them to find out what it's like to be under fire.

Mr. Castillo faces two counts of attempted murder on a peace officer, and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He pleaded innocent to all the charges. Given his past convictions, Mr. Castillo faces a possible life sentence under California's three-strikes law. (Police speculate that Mr. Castillo opened fire because a conviction for simply possessing a firearm would have triggered the three-strikes law.) A judge Monday ordered the case to go to trial next month.

Mr. Castillo's lawyer declined to discuss the case.

After the shooting, the studio sent Ms. Oxenberg to Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., to recuperate. Mr. Kessler had to get busy writing an episode. Inspired by the incident, the plot concerns a two-strike felon who believes the police are after him and commits suicide-by-cop to avoid arrest.

The producers hired as extras real police officers and real gang members. Officer Curry -- at least the back of his head -- appeared in one show, and Officer Deamer had a small speaking part. He's thinking of joining the Screen Actors Guild and is mulling an idea for a screenplay.

The show ran, but CBS yanked the series in December, after just 10 episodes.

Officer Deamer is again patrolling East L.A.; Officer Curry has undergone back surgery and hopes to be back on the job soon. Mr. Kessler and Ms. Oxenberg sent a letter to the police commissioner, commending Officers Deamer and Curry for their courage and restraint.

Both writers, however, found the incident left them deeply troubled, and both are seeing trauma therapists. Even now, Ms. Oxenberg breaks down upon revisiting the crime scene. "Life and gun battles are a hell of a lot more chaotic than they're portrayed in our pathetic profession," she says.

Write to Michael M. Phillips at michael.phillips@wsj.com

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Drizzt
January 14, 2003, 01:06 PM
Ms. Oxenberg was thinking about how confusing the shootout was without a narrator, and wondering why events weren't unfolding the way they do on TV. "When the bad guys shoot -- bang, bang, bang -- the police are supposed to hit them and kill them," she says now.


:rolleyes:

:scrutiny:

tommytrauma
January 14, 2003, 01:14 PM
Officer Deamer decided his best weapon was the black-and-white Ford Crown Victoria cruiser.
he got out and put himself between Mr. Castillo and the TV people, holding his fingers as if they were a gun
I'm surprised he didn't shout "Bang!Bang!":neener:

Airwolf
January 14, 2003, 01:17 PM
The whole story is an indictment of just how out of touch with reality those that create most of the "entertainment" that's consumed in the world are.

The fact that most people think that the crap they see on TV and in movies IS real (or at least based on reality) is one of the contributing factors to why this society is so screwed up.

"Life and gun battles are a hell of a lot more chaotic than they're portrayed in our pathetic profession," she says.

Pathetic is right. :cuss:

Croyance
January 14, 2003, 01:34 PM
Officer Deamer's pistol was tangled up in the air bag and the team's shotgun was stuck in its holder by the front seat. So he got out and put himself between Mr. Castillo and the TV people, holding his fingers as if they were a gun and aiming at the suspect, who continued to demand to be shot. :confused: They teach that at a police academy?

Airwolf
January 14, 2003, 02:04 PM
Officer Deamer's pistol was tangled up in the air bag and the team's shotgun was stuck in its holder by the front seat. So he got out and put himself between Mr. Castillo and the TV people, holding his fingers as if they were a gun and aiming at the suspect, who continued to demand to be shot.

"Ok, so, 10 out of 10 for style, but minus several million for good thinking, ok."
- Zaphod Beeblebrox

:evil:

thumbtack
January 14, 2003, 02:45 PM
http://www.rleeermey.net/mailcallforum/images/smiles/icon_eek.gif

I am finding more and more reasons why I am glad that I don't live in PRK.

MK11
January 14, 2003, 02:50 PM
A guy getting up after getting smacked by a car kinda puts the whole ".45 vs. 9mm" thing into perspective.

Zundfolge
January 14, 2003, 03:02 PM
At that moment, the officers say, Mr. Castillo, who was 35 at the time, stepped into the street, reached behind his back and drew an East German Ernst Thaelmann semiautomatic pistol.

Is that a Makarov?

Frohickey
January 14, 2003, 03:56 PM
While Officer Curry fired, Officer Deamer drove the cruiser toward Mr. Castillo, got out and took aim from behind the driver's door

Officer Deamer decided his best weapon was the black-and-white Ford Crown Victoria cruiser.


Whats better, a 230grain Federal Hydra-Shok going 900FPS from a 45ACP, or a 21Million grain Ford Crown Victoria going 25MPH on Goodyear All-Weather? :D

230gr - 900FPS --> 413 Ft lbs of Energy
21Mgr - 25MPH -->62462 Ft lbs of Energy!!!

larryw
January 14, 2003, 04:35 PM
Just like in all the other caliber wars, placement is king: he was actually able to hit the BG with the CrownVic. He shot nothing but smog with the 45. :neener:

Pendragon
January 14, 2003, 05:43 PM
I think he was pretending to have his gun because the suspect was down, he could not get an actual gun, so acting like he had one was at least a small notch above "I cant get my gun man!"

J Miller
January 14, 2003, 05:48 PM
It's a proven fact that a person will do best with the weapon he has the most experiance with.

Obviously the officer had much more experiance driving the Crown Vic than shooting his service weapon.

So.....................maybe they should put gun sights on patrol cars.:rolleyes:

Croyance
January 14, 2003, 05:52 PM
maybe they should put gun sights on patrol cars Isn't that what the old hood orniments were for?:evil:

Airwolf
January 14, 2003, 06:14 PM
Obviously the officer had much more experiance driving the Crown Vic than shooting his service weapon.

I was watching one of those "follow the cop" reality shows sometime last year (Discover or TLC). They were at the range qualifying (LAPD). During the quals one of the them had a stoppage. I nearly died watching her fumble with the gun (a Beretta), stop, stare at it for a few seconds, rack the slide and try to put another round downrange. She just turned to her partner and shrugged her shoulders saying “it jammed”.

As they were leaving the range she looked back over her shoulder to the camera and basically said "Oh, well. Didn't qualify, have to come back and do it later".

It was pretty obvious that having her duty weapon fail, her less than stellar response to it and failing to qualify wasn’t any big deal. I think she was most annoyed at having to take the time to come back and requal.

Very disturbing to say the least.

JohnKSa
January 15, 2003, 12:17 AM
So...

We have a gunfight where three people exchange fire and no one is hit.

The injuries are a ruptured herniated disc, a pedestrian/car incident and some injuries in the squad car from the impact.

This gunfight ended with a cop pointing a non-existant gun at a felon who was threatening to draw a non-existant gun.

I don't know about you guys, but I think that's kind of funny.

Gordon
January 15, 2003, 12:38 AM
Funny as an Ernst Thelmann pistol?:confused:

HABU
January 15, 2003, 01:08 AM
Twenty-one shots had been fired, and nobody was hit.

Time to re-qual.:what: :neener: :banghead: :cuss: :confused: :scrutiny:

Blackhawk
January 15, 2003, 01:14 AM
A guy getting up after getting smacked by a car kinda puts the whole ".45 vs. 9mm" thing into perspective. :neener: :neener: :neener:

JoshM
January 15, 2003, 01:44 AM
Officer Deamer's pistol was tangled up in the air bag and the team's shotgun was stuck in its holder by the front seat. So he got out and put himself between Mr. Castillo and the TV people, holding his fingers as if they were a gun and aiming at the suspect, who continued to demand to be shot.

No back up gun ? I'll bet he packs one now though.

DadOfThree
January 15, 2003, 02:12 AM
"Dude, dude! He's got a gun!" Officer Deamer shouted
Okay, maybe I'm just old fashioned, or maybe it's because I'm not from CA, but I don't think I would have very much confidence in a policeman that starts his sentences with "Dude, dude" Just doesn't seem real professional. :p

Triad
January 15, 2003, 02:27 AM
Zundfolge, apparently it is a Mak.
From Makarov.com (http://www.makarov.com/makfaq.html)
The Ernst Thaelman factory in Suhl, Thueringen made what are considered by some to be the finest pre-fall-of-the-Berlin Wall Makarovs.

joeislove
January 15, 2003, 02:50 AM
I don't know. I think Officer Deamer's actions were pretty commendable. He nailed the gangbanger with the best weapon available to him, in my opinion. I'll take a Crown Vic over a Beretta any day.

And when he was disarmed, he put himself between his passengers and possible harm and bluffed. That's ballsy, any way you look at it.

And Officer Curry, although he didn't hit anything when he fired, was firing under extreme stress. He could probably use a little extra training, but I'm not sure I'd be able to make a shot on a moving target while running for cover, either. And when Castillo went for his imaginary gun after being popped by the patrol car, Curry could have shot him, but he waited to assess the actual threat and didn't shoot when he didn't see a weapon.

How many here would have been screaming for his badge if he'd shot Castillo? "He shot an unarmed man!! Jack-booted thug!!" I can hear the cries of outrage already.

The crook got nabbed, and will now almost certainly be sent up the river for life. The TV writers weren't hurt (not seriously, anyway). Nobody got killed. All in all, sounds like it worked out all around.

The best part is that a couple of TV writers got to find out what it's really like. Maybe they'll be able to add a little realism to their writing now.

I don't know what I would have done differently, if anything. I've never been in a gunfight, and I hope I never will be.

Daniel
January 15, 2003, 03:52 AM
Hard to hit a weaving and moving target with a pistol; no one stands like paper.

Bravo8
January 15, 2003, 05:46 AM
No, no, no..............internet gun BB are populated by nothing but expert marksman with years of experience in real firefights. :rolleyes:

Kamicosmos
January 15, 2003, 06:09 AM
Airwolf - -

I saw that episode too. I can't remember if it was her partner or the RO, but one of them mentioned that her gun was so dirty, that's why it jammed! A Beretta so dirty it jammed....how is that possible?!?!?!

What's scary about that though (besides her attitude towards her weapon and skills with it) is the fact that she's out there on the streets, supposedly to Protect and Serve....


Kamicosmos

yorec
January 15, 2003, 06:52 AM
Officer Deamer's pistol was tangled up in the air bag and the team's shotgun was stuck in its holder by the front seat. So he got out and put himself between Mr. Castillo and the TV people, holding his fingers as if they were a gun and aiming at the suspect, who continued to demand to be shot.

Bet he takes up carrying a BUG from now on...

Oh, wait - the PRK. Probably against department policy or illegal. Car'll have to do.

Monte Harrison
January 15, 2003, 08:46 AM
No, no, no..............internet gun BB are populated by nothing but expert marksman with years of experience in real firefights. Yeah, OK, point taken.
But still, I would have drilled the scumbag in the first couple of shots, by God! :D

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