BILLINGS, Mont. – A West Virginia man who claimed to be a victim of a drive-by shooting along a rural Montana highway while working on a memoir called "Kindness in America" has confessed to shooting himself, authorities said Friday.
Ray Dolin, 39, of Julian, W. Va., made the acknowledgement Thursday night, said Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier. Authorities believe Dolin, who is recovering at a Miles City hospital, shot himself as a desperate act of self-promotion but offered no further details.
The case remains under investigation and charges against Dolin are possible. None have yet been filed, said Undersheriff Vernon Buerkle.
Dolin claimed he was hitchhiking along U.S. Highway 2 west of Glasgow on Saturday when the driver of a maroon pickup pulled to a stop and shot him in the upper arm with no provocation.
Authorities later arrested Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, 52, and charged him with felony assault. That charge was dropped Thursday, although Danielson remained in custody for allegedly being under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he was pulled over.
Dolin runs a photography business called OneShot Impressions, which has as its logo the cross-hairs of a rifle scope.
He could not be reached for comment Friday. But he said in a Thursday interview prior to his alleged confession that he recently had taken a bus from West Virginia to Sidney and then began traveling across the state working on his memoir about people's kindness.
Asked about the release of Danielson, Dolin said then that he was reluctant to comment because of the ongoing investigation.
But he talked at length about his planned photographic memoir, offering several supposed instances in which strangers had gone out of their way to help him along his journey. And he repeated the claim made to authorities that he was shot as he was stopped on the side of the road preparing a meal.
Dolin told The Associated Press that no words were exchanged and that he never got a good look at the perpetrator.
"He came up, pulls up at a normal speed, stops, points, shoots and drives off. ... I did not get a good description," Dolin said.
The woman who stopped to help Dolin said Friday that she had no suspicions at the time that he might be responsible for his own wound. Sherry Alveson, of Malta, said she stopped after her daughter saw Dolin waving his jacket on the side of the road trying to flag down passing vehicles.
"He had blood down his arms, all over his clothes and he was bleeding and shivering and shaky," Alveson said of her initial encounter with Dolin. "I wasn't going to leave him sitting there."
Alveson said she only became suspicious after reading in Friday's paper that Danielson had been released. She said that made her wonder if the shooter was still at large or if Dolin shot himself.
But she said it wouldn't have changed her decision to stop along the highway last weekend.
"Whether it was self-inflicted or somebody else did it, he needed help," Alveson said.
Authorities arrested Danielson — a Tumwater, Wash., man apparently in the region to work in the Bakken oil fields — about 100 miles from the scene of the shooting based on a match between his vehicle and a description offered by Dolin. He was freed after his vehicle was examined under a search warrant, Meier said, although no further details have been offered.