PIERRE, S. D. — Carrol Knutson says a hospital opinion and the hole in her leg are all the proof she needs to determine how she was injured last week while watching a mock Old West gunfight that was supposed to use blanks.
“There’s no doubt it was a bullet,” said Knutson, a 65-year-old Birchwood, Minn., resident who was one of more than 100 people who attended the free public event. “It’s just where did the bullet come from? Who shot, and how did such a thing happen?”
Knutson said hospital staff wrote a diagnosis that concluded a bullet shattered her fibula, a bone in the lower leg. Lead residue was found in the wound, she said.
Knutson was one of three tourists hurt Friday evening during a mock gun battle staged by the Dakota Wild Bunch re-enactors, who use blanks when they perform several times a week on a street in Hill City, a tourist town in the Black Hills. John Ellis, 48, an optometrist from South Connellsville, Penn., was hit in the arm. Jose Pruneda, 52, of Alliance, Neb., suffered a minor wound.
Police aren’t sure what happened. The lead investigator in the case, Lt. Marty Graves of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department, said the victims were hit by some kind of “projectile,” but law officers have not concluded how that happened. The investigation might take weeks, he said.
“We’re slowly, but surely, narrowing things down, but haven’t concluded anything at this point,” Graves said.
The sheriff’s department plans to send physical evidence to the state crime lab in Pierre, but testing could take at least two weeks, Graves said. Evidence includes guns and ammunition used in the show and clothing worn by the victims.
Graves refused to speculate on whether a live cartridge was somehow placed in a gun or something else happened. Rumors and speculation just interfere with the investigation, he said.
Investigators have asked members of the re-enactor group not to comment until the investigation is completed, Graves said.
On their Facebook page, the Dakota Wild Bunch Reinactors said they are not allowed to bring live rounds to their performances, which raise money for a charity. “This is what I can say about Friday night, all of our guns were using blanks.”