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Police Converge On Local Filmmakers Using Fake Firearms After Calls Of People With Guns In Stockton

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Stockton filmmaker Keith Lea said a group of police officers swarming his crew in an area market parking lot isn't a scene from his upcoming Amazon Prime TV series. It was in response to a report of people with guns in the area.

"All we could hear was 'Get down, get down, get down on the ground,' " Lea said. "So we just obliged. We know what police voices sound like so we just got down on the ground."

Lea told CBS13 that he got permission from the market's owner to do the scene in front of the store using airsoft guns.

Police Called on Stockton Film Crews
(credit: Keith Lea)

"(I've) been going to that store for over 15 years. So I know the whole family at the store. So it wasn't a problem with us filming there," Lea said.

CBS13 was told by a spokesperson with Stockton police that, "We encourage anyone who plans on making a video that includes displaying replica firearms in public to notify and coordinate with us in advance. Fortunately, we had a sergeant who quickly took charge and de-escalated this situation to ensure everyone was safe."

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Lea told CBS13 he's glad that the sergeant was there to help de-escalate the situation.

"The rest of them should follow his example because he was calm," Lea said. "You know he felt out the situation and asked the right questions. He wasn't aggressive at all."

Lea said he tried to go to the police and the city to secure a permit and have a police presence at the film location as he had done in previous cities.

But, he told CBS13 that Stockton didn't have permits.

CBS13 contacted Wes Rhea, the film commissioner recognized by the California Film Commission for Stockton/San Joaquin area about the film permitting process.

The commissioner told CBS13 that there's a big gray area because there isn't a city ordinance that, "address the particulars of filming within the city limits."

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He told us private properties don't require permits for filming. A filmmaker does need permission from the property owner to film at that location. The city could ask for a special events permit if needed but there are no rules governing that process according to the commissioner.

Public properties do require a fee and a permit to film.

"We do not issue permits. We advise filmmakers on the proper path for their filming project, based on their needs and particulars.  Weapons use is always part of our conversation, and again, a common-sense procedure to prevent exactly what seems to have happened," Rhea told CBS13 said. "We have worked with many legitimate filmmakers over the years; location scouts and production companies know to notify local LEOs if they plan to use firearms -- fake or not."

Lea feels there still could still be miscommunication when it comes to alerting authorities.

"Then they call into the police that you're using fake guns and one of the police officers missed...rides, by...and he thinks that it's something and it can be an accident that way."

This hungry filmmaker hopes there can be better dialogue to make sure they can capture their vision.

"I just think we need better communication within the people in the community here, and the community of arts, of how can we hire the protect us while we are doing this type of art," Lea said.

Lea said he'll have signs or different measures to alert people and work with police if he does have future fake or replica firearms.

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