Belfast Telegraph

Student actors' terror as police pull guns on set of movie 'heist' in Portstewart

By David Young and PA

Terrified students begged police not to shoot as they swooped on them filming a staged armed robbery after mistaking them for genuine criminals.

Officers confronted one of the group - a man wearing a balaclava and carrying a fake gun - and ordered him to drop the weapon.

The incident unfolded at a takeaway restaurant on the promenade of the seaside town of Portstewart in Co Londonderry.

It is understood the film students from Ulster University had sought permission from the Burger Club eatery and contacted the local council, but had not told police about their plans.

One of the students said he put down a camera to speak to one of the police called to the scene after a member of the public reported an armed robbery was in progress.

He said one of the officers started screaming.

"This cop was in a panic. His face was bright red, he was yelling at the top of his voice and pointing his gun at me," he said. "I couldn't believe it. Seriously, I thought I was going to get shot. I moved very slowly onto my knees with my arms in the air. It was like being inside a movie set but this was real and I was terrified.

"The actor who came out with me hit the deck and lay there flat, shaking and close to tears.

"The cop kept yelling and I kept saying: 'We are media students, we're making a film. Don't shoot, don't shoot'.

"I repeated it over and over again but he wasn't listening.

"He seemed hyper, the adrenaline was obviously flowing and I felt he was out of control or at least close to it.

"That was the most terrifying moment of my life. The look in the officer's eyes was scary and a policeman I know said that when the adrenaline kicks in, that's when mistakes can happen. I feel lucky to be alive today."

PSNI chief inspector Catherine Magee said officers responded to the incident after receiving a report on Wednesday morning.

"Police responded quickly to the report, arriving on scene within six minutes," she said.

"Attending officers witnessed a man wearing a balaclava and brandishing a handgun inside the premises.

"Officers approached and the man was ordered to put the weapon on the ground.

"The officers involved responded professionally and appropriately, as I would expect them to, given that this was a report of armed robbery with the potential risk to life and property such a report implies. Their focus was, as always, keeping people safe."

Ms Magee said she had contacted the university and hoped to have an "informal chat" with the students involved.

An Ulster University spokeswoman said she was aware of the "incident" and the university is planning a "full investigation".

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