A Fist Full of Fail

Take Paul F. Doering. But you’re going to have to wait a while, because he’s on his way to Club Fed for a 7 1/2 year vacation.

Doering was a Wild West re-enactor with a group called the Dakota Wild Bunch Reinactors (their spelling, and maybe they’re right. What do we know about re-enacting, or re-inacting, either?) who blasted four shots out of his Ruger revolver in Hill City, South Dakota on June 17, 2011. Now, Re-en/inactors do that all the time, except they don’t usually do it with live rounds. Doering did, sending four .45 Long Colt warshots into the crowd.

It’s a miracle he didn’t kill anybody, but he didn’t; instead, he wounded three tourists.

A Federal court in Rapid City sentenced the 49-year-old Doering to serve the 7 1/2 year prison sentence, after Doering changed his plea to guilty on one felony count of evidence tampering. Doering could have faced 20 years in prison for the charge. Doering escaped several more serious charges.

Paul F. Doering had earlier signed a plea agreement where he admitted that he concealed evidence after a June 17 Old West re-enactment of a gun fight on a Hill City side street in which three out-of-state visitors were injured, two seriously.

Federal marshals placed handcuffs on Doering immediately after U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken sentenced the 49-year-old Summerset man.

A six-time convicted felon, Doering was arrested last summer after authorities learned that one of two guns he fired during a Dakota Wild Bunch Reinactors’ performance held live ammunition.

via Old west re-enactor sent to prison.

The Dakota Wild Bunch. (Paul Doering at left). Click to embiggen. Image: Facebook.

Doering wasn’t supposed to have firearms at all, it seems, due to his felony record. The plea bargain came about because of uncertainty over whether and when his civil rights had been restored by the state of Minnesota, where he committed those earlier violations, made a felon-in-possession charge a legal minefield for both sides.

For the time being, the shootouts that have drawn tourists to Hill City in the Dakota Black Hills for decades have been suspended, and the Dakota Wild Bunch, which has done them for four years and of which Doering is a member,

As is usual these days, one of the best stories, and certainly the best-illustrated, on this US news event is in a British newspaper.

We’re not sure about the whole reenactor thing. It’s kind of interesting that people get that dedicated to making history live (although 19th-century gun-safety practices, like six shots in a Colt single-action, need to expire). But we’re always reminded of the jaundiced comment by an old Vietnam-vet team sergeant: “So, in thirty years, are there gonna be Vietnam reenactors? 300-lb guys in black pajamas going, ‘I’ll be the gooks?'” We didn’t know what to say to him, then or now.

If there’s any good news in this, it’s that SD’s medical response has improved significantly since 1878, and none of the three wounded tourists had to endure surgery on rye whiskey and a bitten bullet. Carrol Knutson of Minnesota, John Ellis of Pennsylvania and Jose Pruneda of Nebraska have recovered but had significant medical expenses, which Doering must take responsibility for.

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