RALEIGH — A retired sheriff's deputy and two bystanders were hurt when gunfire erupted at a large gun show at North Carolina's state fairgrounds on Saturday — a shooting that officials and witnesses are calling accidental.
A 12-gauge shotgun discharged while its owner removed it from its case at a security checkpoint at the entrance to the Dixie Gun and Knife Show, fairgrounds Police Chief Joel Keith said Saturday. The event draws thousands of people to the fairgrounds, located in Raleigh.
Janet Hoover, 54, of Benson and Linwood Hester, 50, of Durham were hit by shotgun pellets and taken to a hospital, Keith said. Hoover was hit with small, birdshot pellets in her right torso, while Hester was hit in the left hand, Keith said.
Retired Wake County Sheriff's Deputy Jake Alderman, 54, of Wake Forest, suffered a slight hand injury and was treated and released at a Raleigh hospital, Keith said.
Authorities said the shotgun's owner, 36-year-old Gary Lynn Wilson of Wilmington, brought the weapon looking for a private buyer. While guns are banned from the fairgrounds during the annual state fair, Keith said he didn't know if Wilson might face criminal charges for bringing a loaded shotgun onto state property.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, whose agency is investigating the shooting, said his officers would consult with prosecutors but that it was too early to know whether Wilson might be charged.
"What we see is an accident," Harrison said.
Wilson's shotgun discharged while he unzipped its case for it to be checked, said Brian Long, a spokesman for the state agriculture department, which operates the fairground.
"The weapon discharged before any of our employees had ever taken possession or touched the firearm or had an opportunity to make it safe," Keith said.
The two-day show shut down early Saturday, but will reopen Sunday. Private sales will not be allowed Sunday, Keith said, and he favors ending private transactions at future fairgrounds gun shows. Keith said he did not know how many private gun sales were conducted during the quarterly shows, but called the percentage not transacted through a commercial vendor "minuscule."
Accidential shootings at gun shows in Indiana and Ohio also injuried bystanders Saturday as thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully the same day at state capitals around the U.S. to rally against stricter firearm limits.
In Indianapolis, police said a 54-year-old man was injured when he inadvertently shot himself while leaving a gun show.
Emory L. Cozee was loading his .45-caliber semi-automatic when he shot himself in the hand as he was leaving the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife show at the state fairgrounds, state police said. Loaded personal weapons aren't allowed inside the show.
Cozee, of Indianapolis, was hospitalized for treatment. Police say the shooting was accidental and no charges will be filed.
And in Ohio, a gun dealer in Medina was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had bought Saturday when he accidentally pulled the trigger, injuring his friend, police said. The gun's magazine had been removed from the firearm, but one round remained in the chamber, police said.
Police Chief Pat Berarducci said it appears the bullet ricocheted off the floor and struck the friend in the arm and leg. The man was taken by helicopter to a hospital 30 miles north in Cleveland, Berarducci said. His condition wasn't immediately known.
The gun rallies held Saturday coincide with President Barack Obama's unveiling of a sweeping package of federal gun-control proposals in the wake of a Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators last month.