Tapes of police radio transmissions illustrate tense moments before officers realize "armed kidnapping'' is all an act.
By RYAN MEEHAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2002
TAMPA -- Even with an officer pointing a gun at him from a few feet away, Joe Kirane pulled up his shirt and grabbed a fake gun tucked in his waistband, a police report said.
It was all an act.
But the act earned Kirane a knee in the back, a nasty cut above the eye and ride in back of a patrol car, charged with resisting arrest without violence.
"With any slight change of circumstances that day, the scenario could have been totally different," Tampa police spokeswoman Katie Hughes said.
Officer Gary Pruitt said he was an arm's length away when Kirane reached for a gun, which turned out to be a starter pistol.
"Because I was so close, I made the decision to disarm the defendant and arrest him instead of shooting him," Pruitt said in his report.
Kirane was briefly hospitalized to receive stitches for his injury, then released on his own recognizance and given a notice to appear in court, police said Monday. He was part of a reality-based action/adventure acting troupe, which on Friday and Saturday used the streets of Tampa and Ybor City as its stage.
Also arrested was Barbara Dion, a paying participant, who, according to the police report, began laughing when asked for her name and birth date. She was also charged with resisting arrest without violence and was released from jail on bond Saturday night.
Guests paid $175 apiece to travel along on the adventure, each given the opportunity to hunt for clues, with the ultimate goal of solving a mystery.
But the lines between reality and fantasy blurred Saturday morning when police responded to a call about a possible kidnapping at gunpoint.
Police radio transmissions from Saturday were released Monday. On the tape, sirens can be heard as an officer yells into the radio, "I got a guy with a gun, guy with a gun."
As another officer approaches: "Male subject shooting at a crowd of people," he says.
Police also released a 911 tape Monday of a call from one of the owners of the production company, Medallion Adventures. Joe Durkin, spokesman for Tampa police, said authorities were not informed of the production. But on the tape, Medallion Adventures owner Sherri Ferstl tells a dispatcher that police have been notified and are getting in the way.
"Somebody radio to their cars and tell them they are interfering with our production," Ferstl can be heard saying on the tape.
Ferstl would not comment Monday except to say the incident has not scared customers away.
"If anything, we have been encouraged," she said. "All the people who were with us were congratulating us for putting on a production in such a professional manner."
Times staff writer Tamara Lush, one of the participants riding along for the adventure, wrote stories published in Saturday's and Sunday's editions.