Fake holdup draws real police
A mock stickup at a Tottenham gas station for a movie Sunday night sent a heavy police presence to the community after a member of the public witnessed the filming and thought it was rea At about 8:20 p.m. a resident called police and reported an armed robbery in progress at the gas station just north of the Tottenham Mall. The witness said they could see a suspect holding a man hostage with a gun to his head inside the station. Police from Nottawasaga, Caledon and Dufferin OPP detachments responded to the scene along with a tactical command post trailer. The first officers arriving reported seeing a gas station employee running from the building with his hands over his head. The suspect was seen in the building near the cash register. Officers pulled their weapons and demanded that the suspect surrender. Police then learned the gun was fake and there were Centennial College film students inside the building making a movie for a school project. After the situation was defused most of the police officers started leaving the scene, but OPP Const. Mel Tourigny said the incident was still a heavy drain on police resources. "It was treated like an armed robbery," said Tourigny. "You have practically every available unit start heading in that direction. It tied up officers from three detachments." A spokesperson for Centennial College, Mark Toljagic, said the school regrets the incident. "The college is very apologetic to local residents and the OPP for the mix-up," he said. He said the students had received permission from the gas station owner and that filming was done when the business was closed. He also said the windows were darkened for most of the shoot, but at one point the windows were opened, which is when the witness saw the incident. Police watched the film footage to confirm it matched up to what the witness reported. Tourigny said police are supposed to be notified well in advance of any film shooting to avoid confusion. Toljagic said up until now, the school has had a guideline that students approach local municipalities or police departments to notify them of all public shooting. He said that practice is now going to be stiffened to ensure another mix-up doesn’t happen in the future. "They’re going to make it an absolute policy now, and students will have to produce a document that shows that the local police office signed off on the (project)," he said. Officers told the students about the potential risk to both the film crew itself and the rest of the public. The actors were also warned about how the public and the police perceived the threat. Police notified the college about the incident. Toljagic said he isn’t aware if the school is planning on taking any further disciplinary action.