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A report of a person with an assault weapon walking near Bungie Studios, sent a team of police swarming to the Kirkland, Washington studio yesterday afternoon.
The incident turned out to be a misunderstanding and a surprise interruption of what was supposed to be a less eventful visit by your deputy editor to play some Halo 3: ODST.
The person who had thought they'd seen a gunman in the neighbourhood had actually seen a Bungie employee carrying a replica Halo rifle back to the studio's offices, Bungie community director Brian Jarrard told me. Recognising there was no longer an emergency officers advised Bungie officials to transport the gun more discretely in the future.
Kirkland police, contacted today for more details, said a passerby on their way to the local farmer's market called 911 saying that they thought they saw someone walking down the street with an AK-47 about 4:20 p.m.
Five officers were dispatched to the area to investigate, but were able to figure out what had happened within about ten minutes.
I'd come to Seattle a couple of days early, in advance of the kick-off of the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo. Brian Jarrard, community director at Bungie was going to let me play some Halo 3: ODST. He gave me a tour of the studio's impressive lobby, let me stand briefly in the main development area of the offices, which used to be a high-ceiling supermarket. Halo: Reach is now being made in that large room.
For the bulk of my afternoon visit, Jarrard had me set up in a conference room located just outside the lobby of the studio. And as I was playing the police incident occurred. Around 4pm, someone opened the door to the conference room and peeked in. Before the door shut, I saw a police officer in the lobby. The cops had descended upon the studio.
I caught no more than that glimpse of the one police officer, a woman in a dark uniform, walking through the lobby. I could tell something serious was going down, that the cops weren't just there to check out Halo.
Approximately eight police cars responded to the call, closing in on the parking lot adjacent to Bungie's offices. According to Jarrard, a SWAT team was also called in, though they never entered the Bungie offices.
What the witness had seen however, was not a real gun but a prop Halo gun. It was a replica of the sniper rifle used in the series by the UNSC forces, built for the live-action video shorts directed by District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp a couple of years ago. Someone from Bungie was transporting the replica gun back to the offices when they were mistaken for a neighbourhood threat.
The police weren't allowing people into the lobby, ordering Bungie developers to stay in their big development room. By the time I was able to get out of the conference room, the police were gone. They had recommended to Bungie personnel that, next time, the replica would be better carried covered up, so as not to cause alarm.
For one last perspective, here's me holding the rifle.