Investigators seek tape

Published 11:17 pm Thursday, October 2, 2008

ISLE OF WIGHT—Investigators in Isle of Wight County say deputies that responded to Saturday’s shooting of a Civil War re-enactor at Heritage Park were shown footage of the incident by filmmakers who were making a documentary, and are waiting for additional video from other cameras that may ultimately reveal who fired the shot.

Deputies were shown a video playback of Thomas R. Lord Sr., a 73-year-old Civil War re-enactor, at the moment he was wounded by a .45-caliber lead ball, 1st Sgt. Paul Phelps and Al Yeatman, an investigator with the sheriff’s department, said Thursday.

“They saw (Lord) getting shot,” Phelps said.

Phelps and Yeatman said there were multiple cameras rolling at the same time, capturing the incident from different angles. Deputies saw video from the camera that was pointed in Lord’s direction, but did not look at any other footage.

Police have not released the name of the production company that was in charge of filming the documentary, but did confirm the company is based in Virginia Beach.

County spokesman Don Robertson said the filmmakers did not have a permit through the Parks & Recreation Department to operate in Heritage Park.

The filmmakers promised they would make copies of video from the other cameras and send it to investigators, Phelps and Yeatman said, both adding that the filmmakers have been “very cooperative.”

“(The filmmakers) told us (at the time of the incident) that they would make us copies,” Phelps said. “We should have the tape today.” It was not clear if investigators were in possession of a tape from the filmmakers as of press time Thursday night.

Deputies responding to the incident Saturday declined to seize the tape they viewed from filmmakers because “it was their property,” Phelps said.

Phelps and Yeatman said the filmmakers originally believed that the shot may have come from hunters or target shooters from nearby woods, but that theory was disproved.

“Game commission officers went into the woods,” Phelps said. They were looking for shells or other evidence that hunters or others were in the area “but they didn’t find anything,” he said.

Yeatman said there were about 15 people dressed as Union soldiers and another 12 to 14 as Confederates. Among the Southerners, “three or four may have been walk-ons,” he said.

Commenting on how many people investigators are looking for, Phelps said “we have narrowed it down to a few people.” Yeatman added “there are four or five people we would really like to talk to.”

Phelps said that once police finished their investigation they would try to determine “whether (the incident) was negligence,” and depending on their findings may or may not “take it to the Commonwealth’s Attorney afterwards.”

“We’re not saying it’s an accident, and we’re not saying it’s intentional,” Phelps said.

The shooting remains under investigation by Isle of Wight authorities.

John Jobe, a 67-year-old Civil War re-enactor from Poquoson, was standing near Lord at the time of the shooting.

“I was 2 yards from him,” Jobe said Wednesday. Both Jobe and Lord are members of the 7th New York Cavalry, which is assigned to the 18th Corps. Jobe said two other men from the 7th N.Y. were at Heritage Park at the time of the shooting. “My unit was the only Union outfit out there,” he said.

According to Jobe, the filmmakers were working on a documentary about the Overland Campaign, a series of battles fought in Virginia in 1864.

“It was not a re-enactment,” said Jobe.

Jobe said that he, Lord, and the others in the 7th N.Y. came to Heritage Park at the request of the filmmakers, but not everyone in uniform were re-enactors – some were actors.

“Some people slipped through the cracks,” Jobe said. “They weren’t re-enactors. They weren’t qualified people. They were ‘weekend warriors’ who slipped on uniforms. Maybe they just wanted to get on film or be in uniform.”

Jobe added that Civil War re-enactors routinely have their weapons inspected at their events, “but (this) being a movie set, there were different rules.”

When the shooting took place, Jobe said “one Confederate group down there, they fired a volley at us.”

Jobe said that since the incident, he has been in contact with Lord several times. He said Lord was at home in Suffolk recovering. According to Jobe, the lead ball that hit Lord struck him from behind, went through his shoulder blade, and exited about four inches below his collarbone.

“He’s a tough, retired New York cop,” Jobe said of Lord.

“We’re hoping that it was just an accident,” Jobe said, “and that whoever did it will come forward.” He added that the incident could have been much worse. The shot “could have hit someone in the spine, or the head,” he said.

“We could have been burying (Lord) yesterday.”

Authorities have asked that anyone with information on the shooting call the Isle of Wight Crime Line at (757) 357-5555.