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South Connellsville doctor shot during show

| Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When a South Connellsville optometrist vacationing in South Dakota stopped to watch a Wild West re-enactment last week, he became an unwitting victim of gunplay.

Dr. John Ellis, 48, was with his family in Hill City, a town in Black Hills National Forest, on Friday when he and about 75 others gathered along Main Street to watch a re-enactment group that often stages shootouts in public.

Ellis said he was watching as the confrontation unfolded in front of him with guns he assumed were loaded with blank rounds until something went terribly wrong.

"I felt something right away in my elbow," Ellis said Tuesday. "I don't know what happened. I reached for my elbow and saw blood on my hand."

When Ellis bent over, he noticed that blood pooling inside his jacket had spilled out from his sleeve from a single gunshot.

"It kind of hit everyone standing around that this was real," Ellis said.

He was treated at the scene and taken to a hospital in Rapid City where surgery was performed that night to remove fragments in his elbow. Ellis was released from the hospital the following day.

The Pennington County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident and has not released details.

Ellis said he didn't know what struck him, but he said the emergency room doctors and staff said it appeared he suffered a bullet wound.

"At this point, the bone needs to mend," said Ellis, who was heading to a follow-up appointment yesterday with the surgeon.

Ellis said it may take six to eight weeks for the bone to mend, and he likely will need physical therapy.

Along with Ellis, two other bystanders were shot -- a woman was hit in the leg and a man sustained a flesh wound. Both are expected to recover, Ellis said.

"I'm doing as good as can be expected," Ellis said, adding that doctors told him that he could continue his vacation and activities as much as he can tolerate. "There's a decent amount of pain," he said.

Ellis thanked the emergency room and surgery staffs for their care. Looking back, Ellis said he realizes how much more serious the incident could have been because five minutes before his was shot, one of his two daughters had been standing next to him.

"It could have been really bad," Ellis said.

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