The S.D. man who wounded a Minnesota tourist is a convicted felon, may face federal charges.
Little did Carrol Knutson know, but the Old West gun re-enactment that went awry, drawing blood and shattering part of her leg, not only came with live bullets but also a real outlaw.
Pennington County sheriff's officials investigating last month's mock gun battle in Hill City, S.D., informed Knutson on Monday that the real bullets that wounded her and two other tourists came from a gun used by a convicted felon who was playing one of the cowboys in the re-enactment. Blanks are supposed to be used during the shootout staged by the Dakota Wild Bunch re-enactors.
"I was just shocked," said Knutson, 65, of Birchwood, near White Bear Lake.
According to the investigation, Paul Doering of Summerset, S.D., fired four live rounds during the fake gun battle on June 17. Federal prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine whether they will file criminal charges against Doering, who served time in Minnesota prisons for earlier felonies, including assault, burglary and escape. If federal officials decline to prosecute, state prosecutors will review the case, said Lara Roetzel, chief deputy state's attorney.
"We're having the U.S. attorney look at it first because my suspicion is that their potential charges are farther-reaching and have greater penalties than mine," Roetzel said. "We're trying to determine which jurisdiction will act in the best interest in this case."
Under federal law, people convicted of crimes punishable by more than one year in prison are prevented from possessing any firearm or ammunition unless they have had their civil rights restored by the state where they were convicted. South Dakota law prevents felons from possessing or having control of a firearm for 15 years.
Knutson said she is stunned that Doering was part of a re-enactment group that used guns. "Oh, my gosh, it never entered my mind that they would have [a felon] in a show like that," she said. "If they had done a background check, they would have known he was a felon. If I want to go down to the senior center and volunteer in the office, I have to have a background check. So someone who is going to be using a gun, even if it's supposed to have blanks in it, and doesn't have a background check ... it's just boggling."
How real ammo instead of blanks ended up being used in the shootout is still a mystery to Knutson, who watched the staged shootout with her husband and grandson.
But Knutson said investigators told her that the shooting was accidental. "It wasn't an intentional shooting," she said. "I was told they're proposing to charge him with being in violation of possessing a firearm."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788