Three Wounded in Old West Charity Shootout Gone Wrong in South Dakota

PHOTO: Pennington County deputies question people at the scene of the Wild West-style shootout in Hill City, South Dakota June 17, 2011.
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Police in South Dakota are trying to figure out how an Old West shootout that was supposed to be the entertainment at a fundraiser wound up putting three people in the hospital with apparent bullet wounds.

Two people remained hospitalized today after three spectators were injured Friday in Hill City, S.D., while attending an Old West shootout that was part of a charity event for the Children's Miracle Network.

"It was the end of the show and the two behind me had started yelling that they were shot and then blood started spraying out everywhere," Phyllis Masten, the videographer for the show, told ABC affiliate KOTA-TV in Rapid City, S.D. "We are all trying to figure out how it happened, but we don't know."

Lt. Marty Graves of the Pennington County Sheriff's office said the volunteer cowboys are supposed to use blanks in their guns, but it was not clear whether they had.

"We have not concluded that there was live ammunition or blanks and we're hoping that we can sort that out," Graves said.

Re-enactors told KOTA-TV that they load their own guns and watch each other do it.

Until investigators can determine what happened, the shootouts are going to be put on hold. The weapons involved in the shootout have been confiscated, and law enforcement personnel are interviewing witnesses.

"It's my understanding from city officials that they're going to put it on hold," Graves said.

The victims have been identified by the sheriff's office as 52-year-old Jose Pruneda of Alliance, Neb.; 65-year-old Carrol Knutson of Birchwood, Minn.; and 48-year-old John Ellis of South Connellsville, Penn. They were taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital last night.

"Two of the victims are still in the hospital and a third [who] received a superficial wound has been released," Graves said.

None of the injuries are life threatening. According to the Rapid City Journal, all three victims are in fair or better condition today.

The shootout, staged by volunteer cowboys from Rapid City is a regular summer attraction in the area, performed four times a week during tourist season to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, a non-profit dedicated to raising funds for children's hospitals.

The volunteers dress up in cowboy outfits and simulate a Wild West gun fight. On average, crowds of approximately 160 people gather to watch the shootout, including many families visiting the area.

"They've been doing it for years (but) there won't be another shootout," Brenda Nolting, the President of the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Rapid City Journal.

"In my mind, it's done for good. This just cannot happen," Nolting added. "This is a horrible thing. We're sick about it. I'm sick for the families. This is just a shock for everybody who's here."

This is not the first time a member of the crowd has been shot at the event. Kyle Poulain, a former student at Hill City School, wrote on the Facebook page of KOTA-TV that he was shot in the head in 2002 at the show.

"They stopped it for a couple years, then started it again," Poulain wrote. "They said (my incident) was caused by an over-packed blank."

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