SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — An Old West gunbattle re-enactor never meant for anyone to get hurt when he accidentally fired real bullets instead of blanks last summer, his lawyer said Thursday.
But three people were injured, and now Paul Doering of Summerset faces up to 20 years in prison after entering a plea deal in federal court.
“I can tell you definitively that Paul feels very terribly that people were hurt as a result of his actions,” said Neil Fulton, federal public defender for South Dakota and North Dakota. “He’s very, very sorry.”
Doering, 49, is to be sentenced April 9. He pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Rapid City to a newly leveled charge of tampering. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the original charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Doering and other re-enactors were supposed to feign a shootout by firing blanks in a mock Old West battle. Investigators have said Doering somehow ended up firing live ammunition.
The bullets shattered a leg bone of Carrol Knutson, 65, of Minnesota; hit the forearm and elbow of John Ellis, 48, of Pennsylvania; and caused minor injuries to Jose Pruneda, 53, of Nebraska.
“It was an accidental shooting,” Fulton said. Doering wasn’t supposed to have firearms because he has previously been convicted of a felony. Doering had previously served several prison stints on assault, burglary and escape charges.
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. Doering’s convictions were in Minnesota.
After the shootout, Doering hid .45- and .22-caliber weapons and ammunition, resulting in the tampering charge, Fulton said.
The mock shootouts between lawmen and outlaws in western South Dakota near the Black Hills have been held in the rural town for decades and was sponsored by the Hill City Chamber of Commerce.
The Dakota Wild Bunch had been performing the show for about four years. The show has since been suspended.
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