"Immediate compliance (by the students with) officer commands saved what could have been a tragic incident, as the fake gun appeared real," department spokesman Mike Hanson said.
"We were making a film," explained Fuezi Balli, one of the five students - four crew members and one actor - involved.
"There was a gun involved in a sequence for 10 minutes or so and someone saw it. The director didn't report to anyone that we were going to be doing something like that," he said.
"It was a fake gun, I was holding it," he said.
The production, called "Blake," was for an advanced video production and direction class, he said.
"We definitely didn't think anyone would see us doing it," he said.
They were on the exposed top level of a parking ramp, visible from other buildings!
"When an officer responding to this hears a gun call, there is an extra, heightened alert and certain tactical maneuvers are put into place. From a distance if they were to see one individual holding a gun to someone's head, the officer might have to use deadly force to stop that. In (Wednesday's) situation, fortunately, the people complied with the officers right away. But when everything is fluid and moving fast, we don't always have the time to (confirm) if a gun is fake or not."
Two weeks ago the department's SWAT Team responded to the Atwood Community Center to rescue a woman they - and passers-by - believed was being held at gunpoint, only to find that the scene was part of a play rehearsal.
Aren't you glad to know the new generation of storytellers has a firm grasp on how the real world works?
UPDATE: I'm getting a lot of similar anecdotes in the email. Here's a good one (from Hana Volokh of Purr Se):
When I was in high school (10 years ago! That seems like forever!) one of my teachers assigned a group project on something or other. One group (not mine) decided to make a cops-style video for their project, and one scene involved tying up a guy and putting him into the trunk of a car. After filming it, they proceeded to let him out, of course, and then they got in the car and drove somewhere else. But they never got there, because a police helicopter had seen them shove the guy into the trunk of the car, and they were swarmed by about 10 police cars a few minutes later.
Thankfully, nobody was hurt or arrested. They finished the video and showed it in class. It was mildly amusing, and you could definitely hear the sound of the police helicopter in the car-trunk scene.