News Column

Amateur moviemakers charged after staging store holdup

May 20, 2014

By Dave Rogers, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

May 20--SALISBURY -- Three days after local police shot and killed a man armed with a machete on Cable Avenue, police again drew their weapons Sunday evening after receiving a 911 call around 7:45 p.m. that the Gulf Express convenience store in Salisbury Square was being robbed at gunpoint.

But soon after local police and officers from neighboring communities surrounded the building, police learned that the gun was fake and the robbery part of a planned movie directed by a local man and starring his friends. After determining there was no danger, police handcuffed the four men. The store owner, identified by police as Tushmarkumar Patel, wasn't immediately charged. According to police, Patel gave the wannabe film crew permission to shoot the scene.

"However, there were no notifications or safeguards letting the public or police aware of the filming," according to acting police Chief Detective Sgt. Anthony King.

Charged with disorderly conduct were Stephen Pivacek, 51, and his son, Adam Pivacek, 24, both of 14 Forest Road, Salisbury; Antoine Lee, 24, of 1 Broadway Ave., No. 4, Ipswich; and Bradley Haddock, 25, 253 Wethersfield St., Rowley.

Yesterday at Newburyport District Court, all four men reached a plea deal with Essex County prosecutor Maura Bailey and were ordered to perform eight hours of community service. Each defendant also apologized to Judge Peter Doyle.

"We definitely used poor judgment, and it won't happen again," Lee said.

Minutes earlier, as Bailey was reading the facts of the case, Doyle was seen shaking his head in disbelief.

"Might have been a good idea to notify the police first," Doyle said to the four men.

Adam Pivacek, who was the director of the film and came up with the idea of filming the fake armed robbery, apologized for "overlooking the obvious."

The unsettling incident took place at a time when Salisbury police officers were still coping with the shooting of a Cable Avenue man who, they said, ran at three officers while wielding a machete. The officers fired at the man, later identified as 29-year-old Nicolas Foster, killing him. As a result, three officers, including Chief Thomas Fowler, were relieved of their service weapons and placed on paid administrative leave pending an official inquiry regarding their use of deadly force.

According to police, the four men had yet to begin filming and instead were going through a test run. Once filming began for real, one of the men was to wait outside the store to alert those who might enter it that the robbery was part of a movie.

But one customer, Joseph Mangipane of Salisbury, who had just left the store after buying a cold drink, thought that the staged scene was actually an armed robbery in progress. As he got back in his car, he saw what he thought was a real handgun being pointed at the clerk. That prompted him to call 911 immediately.

"The minute I saw the gun, I thought that it was for real. That was my first reaction," Mangipane said yesterday.

Mangipane, who used to manage a convenience store, said that when he entered the store, he heard one of the men talking about a movie, but he had no idea that it was related to setting up video equipment and filming a movie scene. Faced with the same scenario again, Mangipane said he would still call authorities.

Inside the store, officers located a baseball bat and a black replica pistol later identified as a BB-type gun. There were no markings or safety features on the pistol, which appeared to be authentic. Also located were several pieces of video equipment, according to police.

The police report stated that K-9 officer Richard Dellaria and officer Michael Tullercash observed a black male (Lee) in the store holding something in the air that appeared to be a handgun. They also observed a second subject wearing a black ski-type mask, and noticed the store clerk waiving his hands in the air. Believing an armed robbery was occurring; officers established a perimeter while awaiting mutual aid. The area was cordoned off and the occupants ordered to the ground at gunpoint.


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Source: Salem News (MA)