The filing of charges in The Cody Gunfighters Show shooting on July 29 and the release of an affidavit prepared by the Cody Police Department detective is the first official confirmation of the details of the incident as reported in the Cody Enterprise in the weeks following the shooting.
According to the affidavit prepared by Ronald Parduba, a detective with the Cody Police Department who investigated the incident, in appears Steve Winsor, one of the participants in the show, inadvertently loaded his revolver with live rounds and fired them in the direction of spectators who were wounded during a July 29 show.
Winsor faces five misdemeanor counts of knowingly pointing a firearm at or in the direction of others.
Three spectators of the popular tourist attraction were wounded. Two of those wounded were a father and his 3-year-old daughter, who drove themselves to West Park Hospital for treatment.
Another man was shot in both calves and received treatment at the scene. He told police that at the peak of the show he saw a man about 10 feet in front of him turn in his direction. He could see blood on the man’s shirt and the girl began crying. At the same time the man told police he heard the “whizzing” sound of bullets, then felt something strike his left calf, and then his right shortly after.
The victim who had been holding his daughter told police he felt as if he had been “hit” by a baseball bat in the shoulder. The man told police he found a quarter-sized wound on his shoulder and could see a wound on his daughter’s right arm.
The victims were only identified by initials in the affidavit.
The affidavit also states that during an Aug. 3 interview, Winsor told Parduba the incident was “purely accidental” and that “he didn’t mean to harm anyone.” He explained that he had used the same revolver for target practice the day before the show, July 28, and had taken four loaded cylinders with him to Red Lake, firing only two.
The handgun Winsor used in the show is a cap and ball blackpowder revolver. This type of handgun is somewhat cumbersome to reload. A measured amount of black powder is poured into each cylinder, and a lead round ball is then ramrodded down on top of the charge. To speed reloading, owners of this type of firearm often have additional cylinders. When all six rounds are fired, the entire cylinder is replaced with another preloaded with six rounds.
Winsor told police shortly before the show he preloaded two cylinders with blank rounds, but somehow one of the cylinders loaded with live rounds “got mixed up with the cylinders loaded with blanks.”
According to the affidavit, Winsor did not know how he mixed up the cylinders. He also “kept apologizing for what happened to the victims.”
It’s common for shooters using cap and ball revolvers to smear grease over the cylinder after it is loaded. The grease prevents chain firing, which happens when the blast from the fired cylinder ignites black powder residue in adjoining cylinders, causing them to fire as well. The grease makes it difficult to easily determine whether a round is loaded with blanks or live rounds, however.
The report does not state whether grease covered the ends of the cylinders in Winsor’s guns.
One of the spectators of the show found a lead round ball near where the victims were shot. The ball was inspected by Trapp Heydenberk, a Cody police sergeant, who reported the ball had rifling marks from a firearm and a flattened, scarred edge consistent with the ball ricocheting off a hard surface.
Gunfighters Show protocol called
for participants to aim their guns at the ground rather than at the performer they are “targeting” when they fired. This practice might have been the difference between the relatively minor injuries described in the report, and potentially much more serious injuries, or even loss of life.
Heydenberk inspected all the firearms used in the show and determined that Winsor likely fired the “projectiles” during the performance. The inspection showed that one of Winsor’s revolvers was loaded with a round ball in one of the cylinders. The other five cylinders were empty.
Winsor carried two revolvers during the show and both were confiscated.
Don Bash, then manager of the Show, told officers that each performer was responsible for inspecting their firearms. Winsor told Parduba that he did not inspect his gun, that he had used the same firearm for target practice the day before, and that he could not explain how live rounds got into his gun the evening of the show.
In the days following the incident two additional lead round balls were discovered at the Red Canyon River Trips shop, which was in the line of fire behind the spectators who were wounded. The day after the show, Red River employees also discovered that one of the rafts the shop displays during the day had been punctured. The raft was already deflated at the time of the shooting. The raft had both entry and exit punctures.
Both of Winsor’s guns, as well as the round balls collected at the scene, were sent to the State Crime Lab in August. The lab report on the round balls determined they had the general characteristics of having been fired from Winsor’s revolver, but lacked sufficient detail to “identify nor eliminate the bullets as having been fired from the revolvers.”
Winsor was involved in an incident in Cody on Jan. 30, 2015, when he was accused of pointing a pair of “western” style revolvers at Moshe Williams, a friend of Winsor’s roommate, Benjamin Simons, according to a Cody police report.
Simons and Winsor shared an apartment at 814 14th St. in Cody at the time.
The witnesses told police Winsor pointed the guns at Williams’ head and told him “Get out or die.” Williams immediately left, and Simons, after talking to Winsor, left as well. They called police from Simons residence, also on 14th Street.
Winsor was originally charged with a felony in the case for threatening to use a drawn, deadly weapon. That charge was reduced to misdemeanor reckless endangering in a February plea agreement and Winsor was placed on one year’s probation.
In March he successfully petitioned to have the court return the handguns that had been confiscated in the case.
Even if Winsor had been convicted of a felony that may not prevented him from possessing the type of handguns used in the July incident. Federal firearms laws that prevent convicted felons from possessing firearms have an exception for antique weapons, such as cap and ball, black powder revolvers.
Bryan Skoric, Park County attorney, confirmed that Winsor was on probation for the 2015 incident and that a warrant has been issued for his arrest for The Gunfighters Show shooting.
(Rob Breeding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)