TOMBSTONE, Ariz. — The shooting of an actor with a real bullet during a historical re-enactment show in Tombstone could result in criminal charges, the Tombstone Marshal's Office said.
The shooting happened Sunday afternoon as two performers from the Tombstone Vigilantes group re-enacted a gunfight in the 19th century mining town made famous by Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the O.K. Corral. A bystander also was hurt but declined medical treatment.
One of actor Tom Carter's guns fired live rounds, hitting a fellow member of the group, the Tombstone Marshal's Office said. Ken Curtis fell to the ground and was flown to a hospital in Tucson, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.
The marshal's office said Monday the shooting is being classified as an aggravated assault based on the recklessness and serious injury involved. No arrests have been made and the report will be forwarded to the Cochise County Attorney's Office for review.
Tombstone authorities called the shooting unprecedented. The marshal's office says Mayor Dusty Escapule advised the Tombstone Vigilantes group to suspend gunfight skits as the investigation plays out.
"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.
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."
The historical gunfight shows were cancelled until further notice, Jeff Miller, chief of the Tombstone Vigilantes group, said Monday.
"We need to get some things ironed out," he said. "We have safety protocols and obviously something went wrong with one of them."
The safety protocols require the group's members put their guns in the armory room prior to each show. The group's armorer then makes sure the guns are clean, unloaded, and in good working order, he said.
“It’s obvious that didn’t happen, because if it did, the armorer would have caught it,” Miller said.
The re-enactments will resume once the group figures out what went wrong and fixes it, he said.
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.
Authorities inspected the weapon used in the shooting and found one live round and five casings that indicated the gun was filled with live rounds prior to the skit, the marshal said. The mayor said the weapon was a .45-caliber pistol.
Curtis declined to talk about the shooting on Monday, saying he wanted to wait until the investigation was completed. He is the Tombstone Vigilantes' assistant chief.
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.
Miller said Curtis was shot in the lower-right abdomen and is expected to come home today.
At least two bullets struck nearby businesses, hurting a bystander, the marshal's office said Sunday. The woman was not seriously injured, marshal's dispatcher Dee Jackson said Monday.
Tombstone is about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson. It 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.
All of the group's members are volunteers who go through a probationary period before becoming members, Miller said. Training consists of performing in the re-enactment shows and learning as they go.