Great Wall Street Journal story on two screenwriters who got a little more reality than they bargained for touring gangland with the police in East LA:
- 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.
….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.
Screenwriters now in therapy.