Steve A. Winsor, 51, faces five charges of reckless endangering in connection with the July 29 incident. He pleaded not guilty to the allegations at a Tuesday appearance in Park County’s Circuit Court in Cody.
Three tourists — two men and a 3-year-old child — were hit by lead round balls from Winsor’s gun and suffered relatively minor injuries, police say.
Charging documents allege that, shortly after the incident, Winsor admitted to accidentally loading his gun with the wrong ammunition, and he apologized for the mistake.
Because he has past felony convictions, Winsor is prohibited from owning or possessing guns. However, federal law allows felons to possess “antique firearms,” and Winsor’s black powder revolvers appear to meet that criteria.
The Park County Attorney’s Office filed the endangering charges on Thursday, Feb. 9, and Winsor was arrested Monday.
In asking for Winsor’s bail to be set at $7,500 cash, Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Leda Pojman argued Tuesday that Winsor is both a flight risk and a danger to the community.
“He shot five live rounds into the community here in Cody, Wyoming, during one of the busiest seasons this community has,” Pojman said. “Luckily, he only injured three people instead of five.”
Winsor disputed her characterization.
“I am not a threat or a danger to the community,” Winsor said during his turn to speak, asking to be released on his own recognizance.
Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters ultimately set bond at $7,500 cash or surety — giving Winsor the ability to hire a bondsman to post that amount on his behalf.
“This thing’s been pending out there for six-plus months (and) Mr. Winsor hasn’t disappeared, hasn’t gone away,” Waters said, rejecting the idea that Winsor is a flight risk.
Pojman specifically asked that, if Winsor posts bond, he be prohibited from possessing any kind of firearms while the case is pending; the judge agreed.
“Do not possess any firearm, weapon or explosive device — and that includes anything that’s ... black powder in nature,” Waters told Winsor.
Authorities seized two black-powder revolvers from Winsor in January 2015, after he reportedly pointed them at a roommate’s friend and told him to “get out or get shot.” The Park County Attorney’s Office initially charged Winsor with aggravated assault, but reduced it to a misdemeanor count of reckless endangering as part of a plea deal that resulted in probation in February 2016; prosecutors agreed to have Winsor’s guns returned to him the following month.
It was around 6:30 p.m. on July 29 that Cody police were called to the front of the Irma Hotel, for a report that three spectators had been injured during the Cody Gunfighters’ performance.
The nonprofit group has long put on a free show for tourists in the street near the Irma, performing six nights a week through the summer.
A summary of the Cody Police Department’s investigation, written by detective Ron Parduba and filed in support of the new charges, indicates the bullets were fired as the “bad guys” opened fire on the “good guys” during the performance’s climax.
A 3-year-old child from Minnesota was hit in the bicep, while her 37-year-old father was hit in the shoulder, where blood began pooling on his shirt, Parduba recounted. A 22-year-old New York man standing behind the father and daughter said he heard the whiz of a bullet, then was wounded in his left calf and bruised on his right calf, the affidavit says.
Round balls also ended up puncturing an inflatable kayak at Red Canyon River Trips’ nearby shop.
When responding Cody police officers inspected the performers’ guns, they found one lead round ball inside the six-chambered cylinder in Winsor’s revolver, Parduba wrote. Police seized both of his guns for testing.
In an interview several days after the incident, Winsor told police he had loaded two cylinders with blanks for that night’s performance, but said he must have somehow grabbed a cylinders he’d loaded with lead round balls instead. Winsor explained that he’d been using the pistols and round balls to shoot targets the previous day.
“Winsor said he did not know how he mixed up the cylinders; Winsor kept apologizing for what happened to the victims,” Parduba wrote.
One of the gunfighters’ leaders, Don Bash, reportedly told police the night of the incident that each gunfighter was responsible for inspecting their own firearms prior to the show; Parduba quoted Winsor as saying that he hadn’t checked his guns that night.
The incident put an end to the Cody Gunfighters’ performance for the year. The City of Cody imposed some new safety rules on the group in the wake of the incident, including requiring the Cody Gunfighters to have a designated “gun safety manager” who inspects and loads each actor’s guns before the show and requiring criminal background checks on the actors, the Cody Enterprise has reported.
A trial for Winsor has been tentatively set for July 13.
In court on Tuesday, Winsor said he is unemployed and lives in a shed on Rocky Road in Cody. Records from prior court cases involving Winsor show there have been concerns raised about his mental health over the years.