911 calls reveal aftermath of Tombstone shooting

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 6:45 PM
911 calls reveal aftermath of Tombstone shooting

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — An actor who mistakenly fired real bullets during a shootout re-enactment in Tombstone, Arizona, knicked a tourist several yards away, according to 911 calls released Tuesday.

The 911 recordings released by the Cochise County Sheriff's Office indicated that people around the shooting on Sunday weren't aware of what was happening. Callers helping an actor who was shot didn't immediately understand what took place, thinking he had accidentally hurt himself. The actor, Ken Curtis, was actually shot in the groin area by what was supposed to be a blank bullet but was a live round fired from his fellow actor's gun.

Curtis was listed in good condition at Banner-University Medical Center in Tucson on Tuesday, hospital spokeswoman Elyse Palm said.

The first call was made by a woman who said a tourist has been struck by something that ricocheted off a building next to the Bird Cage Theatre, which is several yards from the re-enactment on historic Allen Street. The tourist, also a woman, can be heard saying she doesn't need medical attention. But the caller insists that a medic be sent over and questions whether live rounds are being shot.

The actors are members of the Tombstone Vigilantes, a group that puts on public re-enactments. The shootout took place during the busiest time of the year in Tombstone, a small town about 3 hours southeast of Phoenix that relies on tourism as its main economic driver. The actors were performing during Helldorado Days, an annual festival that began in 1929.

Authorities say the actor who fired live rounds arrived late and didn't have his weapon inspected. He was supposed to fire blanks.

The actor is facing criminal charges but has not been arrested. An investigation is ongoing.

It wasn't until after that first call that authorities got word of Curtis' injuries.

The owner of a local store called 911 saying the actor had been shot. A man who took over the call told the dispatcher that Curtis was being treated by a physician's assistant. A third caller told the dispatcher Curtis had accidentally shot himself.

The shooting startled locals and prompted the mayor and marshal to draft new regulations for re-enactments that would give them more control. Outdoor re-enactments were placed on hold indefinitely, but mayor Dusty Escapule said they will likely resume after the new ordinance goes to city council next week. He said indoor re-enactments at private businesses could go on because those are already regulated. There weren't any planned outdoor celebrations this week or next, Escapule said.

The new ordinance would require that all actors have background checks and that they register with the Marshal's office.

Escapule, a fourth-generation Tombstone resident, said he was dumbfounded and was critical of the Tombstone Vigilantes for the oversight.

Marshal Bob Randall said an investigation was ongoing but that he would recommend one count of aggravated assault. It's up to the Cochise County Attorney's Office whether the actor who shot real bullets should be charged.

The town relies on its Old West past, and tourism is the main economic driver. The streets resemble a Hollywood movie set, with historic old saloons and buildings that double as souvenir shops. Besides shooting re-enactments, visitors can attend mock hangings, graveyard tours, ghost tours and wagon rides.

The shooting was reminiscent of a 2011 incident in Hill City, South Dakota, where a man fired a loaded gun during a Western-themed re-enactment and wounded three tourists. The man, a convicted felon, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison after authorities say he tried to cover up the fact that he used lived rounds in the shooting.