Affidavit: Performer assumed bullets were blanks in accidental shooting at Cowtown

One person non-life-threatening injuries in an accidental shooting during a demonstration in...
One person non-life-threatening injuries in an accidental shooting during a demonstration in Wichita's Old Cowtown.(KWCH)
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:22 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A court document from Sedgwick County District Court offers insight into how a historical reenactment at the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita involved an accidental shooting that injured a 24-year-old man who was taking part in the performance.

A little after 9 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2020, Wichita police responded to a shooting call at the Old Cowtown Museum in the 1800 block of West Museum Boulevard. Officers arrived to find a 24-year-old man with “multiple pellet injuries,” after being shot in the head, face and upper body with a shotgun.” From interviews, officers determined that two cast members were armed with shotguns during the reenactment. One of the actors told police he’s been involved in multiple reenactments of World War II battles, 1920′s gunfights, and Western gunfights throughout the Midwest.

“He said he is a volunteer at Cowtown but is not a member of the two groups that were putting on the reenactment, but was given permission to participate,” the affidavit said. “He said that he’s been in charge of many reenactments, so of which involved the use of firearms.

Robert Hartung told police that when he showed up to participate in the Sept. 18 historical reenactment at Cowtown, “there was not any type of formal safety briefing that he knows about and that he brought his own guns and two blanks for his shotgun.”

The affidavit said Hartung told police that no one checked his guns before the performance and that he loaded his .38 caliber revolver with blanks provided by organizers of the event at Cowtown.

“He said he loaded his 12 gauge Winchester shotgun with what he “assumes” are blanks that he brought with him,” the affidavit said. “He said that there was no briefing and that he was just told to ride in on the side of one of the antique cars” that was part of the setting for the performance.”

When the reenactment started, Hartung told police he rode in on the passenger side of the car, standing on the passenger sidestep.

“He said when the shooting started, he fired two shots from his shotgun, a Winchester model 97 12-gauge and then put in the backseat of the car and then fired rounds from his .38 revolver,” the affidavit said. “He said he did not know anyone was hurt (until) after the shooting stopped.”

Hartung allowed officers to search his personal vehicle in Cowtown’s parking lot. On the front seat of his truck, the affidavit said, officers, found a “sleeve” that is designed to fit on the buttstock of a shotgun and holds five shotgun shells.

“The five shells in the “sleeve” were the same Winchester 7 1/2 rounds as those that were found fired at the scene,” the affidavit said.

Hartung said he took the sleeve off of the shotgun because it didn’t fit with the time period of the Sept. 18 reenactment. The Winchester 97 shotgun was recovered and the scene. Officers found it to be loaded with three Winchester 7 1/2 shells.

“No shotgun blanks were found on his person, in his vehicle, or in his shotgun,” the affidavit said. “Other than the shells found in (Hartung’s) gun and in his truck, no other live ammunition, fired or unfired, was found during the investigation.”

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