Real bullet hits actor during Old West gunfight reenactment

Real bullet hits actor during Old West gunfight reenactment

TOMBSTONE, Ariz. (AP) — An actor staging a historical gunfight in the Old West town of Tombstone was shot with a live round during a show that was supposed to use blanks, leading officials to put the popular reenactments on hold.

The shooting happened Sunday as performers from the Tombstone Vigilante group reenacted a gunfight in the 19th century mining town made famous by Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the O.K. Corral.

A performer's gun fired live rounds, hitting a fellow member of the acting group, the Tombstone Marshal's Office said. Ken Curtis fell to the ground and was flown to a Tucson hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.

A bystander also was hurt, suffering a small cut to her neck from a ricochet or shrapnel. She did not require any medical treatment.

Mayor Dusty Escapule said someone inspects weapons used in the gunfight skits to ensure the performers use blanks. But he said the actor who fired the live rounds showed up late Sunday, and his gun was not examined.

"I was dumbfounded," Escapule said of learning about the shooting. "I was just appalled the vigilantes would allow one of the actors to not have their weapons checked."

Escapule said the town is drawing up an ordinance to provide more regulations for the mock battles, mandating inspections to ensure blanks are used and doing background checks of every actor involved.

The mayor said all Tombstone gunfights are on hold as the investigation unfolds.

It's not immediately clear if the shooter faces charges. However, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office says it is classifying the investigation as an aggravated assault case "based on the recklessness and serious injury involved."

Curtis was listed in good condition Monday at Banner-University Medical Center in Tucson, hospital spokeswoman Elyse Palm said. She declined to give further details about his injuries. Curtis declined to talk about the shooting when reached at the hospital.

The Tombstone Marshal's Office said authorities inspected the weapon and found one live round and five casings that indicated the gun was filled with live rounds prior to the skit. The mayor said the weapon was a .45-caliber pistol.

"Tombstone takes pride in the safety and security of its townspeople and tourists alike, and the citizens of Tombstone can be assured that stringent safety protocol will be enforced prior to allowing any further gunfight skits," the marshal said in a statement.

Tombstone, about three hours southeast of Phoenix, was once a bustling mining town in the 1800s that now has about 1,500 residents and mostly caters to visitors who come to see gunfight re-enactments and historical sites.

The Tombstone Vigilantes were formed in 1946 and are dedicated to preserving and passing along Tombstone's history to tourists who visit the town near the U.S.-Mexico border. The group also performs mock hangings where unsuspecting victims are tried and convicted by the Tombstone Vigilantes. The shooting occurred during Tombstone's Helldorado Days celebration, which includes gunfights, a parade, music and line dancing.

The shooting was reminiscent of an incident in 2011 in the South Dakota town of Hill City, where a man fired a loaded gun during a western-themed reenactment and wounded three tourists. The man was a convicted felon who 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.