- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Montgomery Police Officer David Wise grew up hearing stories about the day that three men took over the capital city’s WAPX radio station, preaching a radical message, and got into a gun battle with a small army of law officers.

About four years ago, as he got into film-making, he decided to make the shootout the first major focus of his new WiseUp Productions.

The same tale is also riveting for Tyler Bell, a Montgomery restaurateur. He has been working on a similar documentary for about a decade.

Both men expect to complete their projects sometime next year.

On Oct. 12, 1974, a band of Black Muslims killed a retired police officer working security downtown and injured another man with a machete. Three of the men then barged into WAPX, making hostages of the disc jockey and secretary on duty, and calling for a the city’s black community to launch a “revolution.”

Both Wise and Bell say their projects have stretched out longer than they expected due to the many stories that can be told.

“One interview would lead to another interview,” Wise said.

Wise said his film will deliver interviews, photographs and news footage, but he is also including re-enactments to fully reveal the events of that fateful day.

“It’s a documentary with a Tarantino-twist,” he explained.

Bell, meanwhile, is relying on his dozens of interviews with police officers and their families, bystanders, radio station workers and some of the hostage-takers.

He said he needed three years to conduct full interviews with ringleader Arthur Lewis from an Alabama prison.

According to Bell, Lewis essentially ran a martial arts street gang in Montgomery. He said that Lewis told him stories of being raised by an alcoholic mother, and of being involved the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam.

During his 40 years in prison, Lewis has never admitted guilt, Bell said.

Both Bell and Wise said that Lewis didn’t script what he and his group did that day.

Wise said he realized, through his interviews, the far-reaching impact of the takeover and shootout.

In the early 1970s, downtown was the epicenter of the city, and where most people shopped. After the startling events at WAPX, people became afraid to go downtown, and stores slowly started moving east.

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