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Watertown Shootout Will Not Be Recreated For Film On Laurel Street08:03
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Laurel Street in Watertown -- the scene of the armed standoff between the Tsarnaev brothers and police. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Laurel Street in Watertown -- the scene of the armed standoff between the Tsarnaev brothers and police. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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Watertown will not be the scene for a movie recreating the shootout between the Boston Marathon bombers and police. CBS Films wanted to use the street where the shootout occurred to make a movie called "Patriots' Day" about the bombing, shootout and search for the Tsarnaev brothers.

Plans called for five nights of shooting on Laurel Street in Watertown using loud, simulated gunfire. The company offered to compensate residents in the area, but the project created a town-wide controversy.

'People Don't Forget That'

I was in Watertown that dramatic night in 2013. You will hear the recorded sounds of the firefight and manhunt, which may be difficult for some listeners, in the audio segment above.

Helicopters, dogs barking — this is what it actually sounded like a half hour after the shootout, just down the street from where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would later be found hiding in a boat.

Hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers filled the streets, flack jackets and high-powered weapons at the ready.

Now, nearly three years later, Mark Sideris, president of Watertown's Town Council, says for many residents memories are still raw.

"You know, helicopters over the street, tanks going down the street. People don't forget that," he said. "It was a traumatizing event for 24 hours in the town of Watertown."

Two weeks ago, the location manager for CBS Films met with residents and local officials. They were told the director wanted to make Watertown a character in the movie and planned to film in several locations around town, especially Laurel Street, the scene of the shootout.

Sideris was in favor of a movie being made about Watertown — just not in town.

"I think it's a great idea, but movie sets can be set up somewhere else to create the exact same situation."

Mark Sideris

"I think it's a great idea, but movie sets can be set up somewhere else to create the exact same situation," he said. "Why can't we do that?"

During the search for Tsarnaev, SWAT teams went door to door. The entire town was locked down — people were told to sheltered in place. Owen Murphy, his wife and then 2-year-old daughter huddled in a hallway. They live half a mile from the shootout.

"We all had to stay inside of our homes because there was a homicidal bomb-wielding terrorist at large in the neighborhood," Murphy remembered. "And now, if what they're proposing takes place, if we don't want to listen to a re-enactment of the shootout over and over again for four or five nights, we have to leave our homes. So I just think they should make the movie someplace else."

Owen Murphy with his 4-year-old daughter Marlo outside their Watertown home. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Owen Murphy with his 4-year-old daughter Marlo outside their Watertown home. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Laurel Street is lined with one and two family homes, with small yards and not too many trees.

Jean MacDonald watched the firefight from her home on the corner.

"I think they should film the movie here," she said. "Why? Because it happened here."

'It Happened Here'

Right in front of MacDonald's home is where Tamerlan Tsarnaev was run over by his brother. Next door is where MBTA officer Richard Donohue was shot. Movie producers told residents on Laurel that they would put them up in a hotel during the five days of filming, when the shootout would have been re-enacted.

I spoke with MacDonald before the town decided not to allow filming on Laurel Street. She was going to stay.

"I plan on watching it actually, if they do film it," she said. "I'm going to be either looking out my windows or I'm going to be over there in the corner watching them film it. I think it's going to be a lot of fun actually."

A few houses down Laurel Street is where the Tsarnaev brothers traded gunfire with Watertown police.

"I just got back from vacation with my husband and, like an hour after we got home, all hell broke loose," Loretta Kehayias recalled.

You can still see bullet and shrapnel holes in the siding of Kehayias' home.

Three bullet holes remain on the exterior of Loretta Kehayias' home on Laurel Street in Watertown. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Three bullet holes remain on the exterior of Loretta Kehayias' home on Laurel Street in Watertown. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"The cars were parked right here — one across the street, one here and they were standing right by that poll," she remembered. "So I had birds-eye view, they were right there. And they had the pipe bombs. One was huge. It lit up my whole house. The house shook. I'm surprised that window is still intact."

Watertown Police Sgt. John MacLellan and Officer Jeff Pugliese were among those on the scene. They tackled the older Tsarnaev brother. Officers and people whose lives are portrayed in the movie will be paid.

'Might Put Some Closure On It All'

Resident Loretta Kehayias wanted the film to be made in front of her home.

"Do it. Let people know what we went we through and for all those poor people that got hurt — the little boy who died. Yeah, let people know exactly what two people did — they disrupted this world for almost a week," she said. "Maybe it might put some closure on it all. I don't know."

So far there hasn't been closure for Kehayias. Since the shootout, she says she hasn't been able to go out at night by herself.

Almost three years after the shootout, bullet holes remain in the exterior of Loretta Kehayias' home on Laurel Street in Watertown. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Almost three years after the shootout, bullet holes remain in the exterior of Loretta Kehayias' home on Laurel Street in Watertown. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Encoraching On The Home

In the weeks after the shootout, members of the Israel Trauma Coalition came to Watertown to show school officials and counselors how to look for signs of trauma in teachers and kids.

Dr. Barbara Gortych, head of counseling in the school district worked with the Israeli team. She says if the shootout had been recreated in Watertown students would have been re-traumatized.

"Little children, it shows up as a regression in their toilet training," Gortych said. "At one of the elementary schools most effected we had a phenomenal increase in the amount in children wetting themselves."

Gortych cites a study that shows kids that were on Boylston Street when the bombs exploded recovered from their trauma quicker than kids in Watertown, because children who were in Boston had a safe place to go home to.

"In this case, your home was invaded. Children were taken out of their beds. And God bless them, policemen in flack uniforms came into their homes and took over their homes or searched their homes, all of which I think really meant that their sanctuary, their home that they go home to, was now penetrated," Gortych said. "A very scary thing to have happen to a little child."

"... their sanctuary, their home that they go home to, was now penetrated."

Dr. Barbara Gortych

No one from CBS Films would talk to us on the record — but results of a company survey of about 60 Laurel Street residents found nearly 90 percent in favor of making the movie there. But that wasn't good enough for Watertown officials.

"I'm not sure that out weighs the emotional impact on somebody who really is traumatized," said Steven Magoon, assistant town manager.

Magoon spoke with CBS Film producers several times throughout the past week, but late Friday afternoon, movie makers were told they couldn't shoot on Laurel Street — not again. But Magoon says other sites in town are still a possibility.

"They were interested in doing several different scenes," he said. "There's still a potential that they could film here."

That's not likely. From the start, CBS Films told residents if they weren't welcome in Watertown they had other places in the Boston area in mind.

That day, nearly three years ago, when Jahar Tsarnaev was arrested and the siege of Watertown ended. Residents spontaneously cheered their police officers.

And no matter that the movie is not going to be made here, we know how it will end. Watertown is still strong but needs more time to heal.

This segment aired on February 27, 2016.

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Bruce Gellerman Twitter Senior Reporter
Bruce Gellerman is an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent, frequently covering science, business, technology and the environment.

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