NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Seven people are held up inside a movie theater under construction Wednesday in the Bywater. Now, the owners of the business say although scared, they feel even more motivated to set up shop and bring the community together.
Together with her brother, Hayley Sampson invested a lot of time and money into their soon-to-open Indywood Cinema.
"In the back there will be two theaters where we show independent films," Sampson said.
The Colorado native showed up to the St. Claude Avenue business Wednesday night to find it surrounded by police cars. Her brother was held up at gunpoint inside, along with six others, all local filmmakers gathering to discuss one of their projects.
One of the victims, whose identity FOX 8 is concealing for his protection, explains, "We all got on our knees and he just went around and kinda pointed the gun at each of us and he told us to empty our pockets."
The victim said at around 8 p.m., a masked gunman walked into a door that had been left open for another filmmaker.
"I was very scared. I've lived in New Orleans for seven years and I feel, living in this neighborhood, you hear about things like that happening and it was definitely a moment of like, whoa, not believing my eyes for a second," the victim said.
Sampson said at the time of the robbery, this particular stretch of St. Claude was pretty dark. That's because two lights that face the building don't work. She said she has complained to the city multiple times about them, and will continue to do so.
"I think if they were turned on, I don't think this would've happened," Sampson said.
The siblings admit that going in, they knew the neighborhood wasn't the safest. But they were looking for a challenge - to create a venue that would benefit everyone.
The victim explains, "What I would really hope with Indywood is that Indywood can be a place where both sides of St. Claude can come together and we can build the community together."
Now, after being personally touched by crime here, the victim feels even more resolve to make that dream a reality.
The gunman made off with about $40 from the victims. He didn't take any of their cell phones or electronics.