Associated Press, Published July 12 2011
Authorities: Old West re-enactor who fired live ammunition had felony recordSIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — Authorities say a mock Old West gun battle participant in South Dakota who wounded three tourists by firing live ammunition instead of blanks has served more than five years in Minnesota prisons on multiple felony convictions.
Three tourists were hit during the June 17 reenactment staged by the Dakota Wild Bunch, who use blanks when they perform several times a week on a street in Hill City, a tourist town in the Black Hills.
Investigators found that one of the re-enactors, a 49-year-old Summerset man, had live bullets in his gun. His criminal record in Minnesota was first reported by the Rapid City Journal on Tuesday.
The sheriff's office has submitted its investigative reports to the Pennington County state's attorney's office and the U.S. Attorney's office, said chief deputy state's attorney Lara Roetzel.
"We're going to let the U.S. Attorney's office review it first," Roetzel said. "It's our suspicion that they will have better charges with better potential sentences than would be available in state court."
South Dakota law says that a person convicted of a felony in South Dakota or another state cannot possess or have control of a firearm for 15 years.
Federal law prevents felons convicted of crimes punishable by more than one year in prison from possessing any firearm or ammunition unless the person has had their civil rights restored by the state where they were convicted.
The re-enactor alleged to have fired live bullets was imprisoned from April 1982 to January 1984 on two first-degree assault charges, said Sarah Berg, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
He returned to prison on Dec. 14, 1990 to serve time for second-degree burlary but was convicted of escape less than two months later, which extended his stay. He was released in May 1992. In October 2001, he began serving another sentence for escape, which was extended by a Dec. 2001 escape conviction. He got out in May 2004, Berg said.
No phone listing could be found for the man, and a message left to his Facebook account was not immediately returned.
The Associated Press was not naming the man because he hadn't been charged.
The shootouts sponsored by the Hill City Chamber of Commerce have since been suspended.
The bullets that evening shattered a leg bone of Carrol Knutson, 65, of Birchwood, Minn.; hit the forearm and elbow of John Ellis, 48, an optometrist from South Connellsville, Penn.; and caused minor injuries to Jose Pruneda, 53, of Alliance, Neb.
Investigators have not made any comments on why the incident happened or said whether they think the shootings were accidental.
Knutson said Tuesday that she hadn't begun physical therapy and was using crutches to get around. She said she doesn't feel the incident was handled appropriately and she hopes either federal or state charges are filed.
"We've been to many of these shows in the past and you actually see the procedure where they have somebody checking all the guns to make sure everything is OK," she said. "I guess it didn't occur to us to look for such a thing because we didn't get there at the very very beginning of it. It had already started."
Messages left for Brenda Nolting, the chamber president, and Brett McMacken, city administrator for Hill City, were not immediately returned.