Shooter may be charged

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

ISLE OF WIGHT—The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is expected to announce soon whether criminal charges will be filed against a man who allegedly wounded a 73-year-old Civil War re-enactor during the filming of a documentary.

Meanwhile, an employee of the company charged with casting the film disputed statements by investigators and other re-enactors that walk-ons, or people not familiar with the safety precautions taken during re-enactments, participated in the event.

According to 1st Sgt. Paul Phelps, investigators with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office submitted their findings Tuesday to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips.

Several phone messages left with Phillips’ office seeking comment were not returned.

The investigation stems from an incident at Heritage Park on Sept. 27, when someone using a pistol shot Thomas R. Lord Sr. in the back. The projectile, a .45-caliber lead ball, went through his shoulder blade and exited his chest. He was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Norfolk for treatment and released two days later.

Investigators believe they know the identity of the man who fired the shot. Phelps said the man, whom he believed to be a walk-on and a resident of Virginia Beach, met with investigators and gave a statement on Oct. 31. The man’s name was not released.

Lord, a re-enactor with the 7th New York Cavalry, was one of several re-enactors who came to the park at the behest of Alderwerks, a Virginia Beach-based production company that was shooting a documentary about the 1864 Overland Campaign.

The county said Alderwerks did not have a permit through the Parks & Recreation Department to film in Heritage Park.

Deputies were called to the park after the shooting, and when they arrived saw footage from one camera that was pointing at Lord when he was shot. Multiple cameras captured the incident from different angles. Ten days later, Alderwerks sent investigators additional footage taken from other cameras. Sgt. Phelps said investigators looked through 10 to 15 minutes of footage, taken from at least two cameras.

Sgt. Phelps said the severity of the charges could range anywhere from reckless handling of a firearm, a misdemeanor, to malicious wounding, a felony.

Casting VA LLC, a casting company based in Washington, D.C., handled the casting responsibilities for the documentary and put up a MySpace page advertising the event on Sept. 23. The MySpace page listed Alderwerks as the production company and Matt Burchfield as the director.

Henry Lee, a casting associate with Casting VA, said there were no walk-ons at the event.

“I’m very upset that this happened,” Lee said. “It was an accident. It was not intentional. This has affected the living-history industry.”

Lee said that he was involved in the casting of the documentary but wasn’t at Heritage Park at the time of the shooting.

“There was nobody out there that did not know what they were doing,” Lee said. “There were no ‘newbies.’ They were all re-enactors. They all had their own uniforms. They were all attached to a unit or were from a cavalry.”

Lord, contacted at his home in Suffolk, called Lee’s comments “a total lie.”

“I’m good and mad,” Lord said. “The person who shot me was a total idiot. He was not a re-enactor. He was a total wannabe.”

Lord said Burchfield was on the scene at the time of the shooting, but neither he nor any of the other Alderwerks filmmakers came to check on him after he was shot.

“My unit took care of me,” Lord said, adding that his cavalry unit and another cavalry unit helped get his uniform off and assisted rescue workers from Windsor with loading him into the helicopter for the journey to a Norfolk hospital.

Lord said that he has not been in contact with Phillips or anyone from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. He said that he was seeking legal advice from an attorney.

Burchfield, in an e-mail to the Associated Press, declined to comment on the incident because of the ongoing investigation.

“We are thankful for Mr. Lord’s recovery and continue to keep him in our thoughts,” Burchfield wrote.

Lord said no one from Alderwerks visited him in the hospital or has called him since his release. He said the company sent him a fruit basket the Monday after the shooting.

“That was it,” Lord said.