Accident or attempted murder?

Ghost Town shooting still under investigation
By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Nov 08, 2013
Robert Bradley's X-ray shows several foreign objects lodged close to his thigh bone.

It has been about four months since Robert Bradley, the “Apache Kid,” was injured during a gunfight at Ghost Town in the Sky, and there are still no official answers as to how such an incident could have occurred.

At the time, Bradley was unsure what had hit him in the thigh since the gunfighters only use blanks. Now his doctor had confirmed that it was a real bullet — or some type of metal object — that hit him. The fragments are still lodged about 3 inches into his leg.

X-rays show a pellet size object located close to his bone that is just as dense in color as the bone. Photos show that the wound was about the size of a pea.

“Marshal Tim,” played by Tim Gardner, was the one who fired the shot that hit Bradley. He is convinced that employees at Ghost Town sabotaged Bradley and that authorities didn’t handle the incident properly.

“There should have been an investigation the day it happened,” he said. “They should have confiscated the ammo and interviewed every single person involved.”

Bradley, who has worked for Ghost Town since 1962, was acting out a gunfight on July 6 as he did every other day with fellow actors in Western Town. Only this time he was actually shot in the leg when the gun went off.

Gardner is still upset when he thinks about what happened that day. He was the one who made a tourniquet out of a T-shirt to stop the bleeding from Bradley’s leg because he said there was no first aid on the mountain.

“At first I was devastated because I didn’t want to be the contributor of someone’s demise — I barely missed his artery,” Gardner said. “He was bleeding so profusely I’m surprised we got him off the mountain in time.”

Bradley said his doctor told him that the metal object was too close to his femoral artery to safely be removed. Bradley said he had to make regular visits to the doctor for a month after the accident.

“They couldn’t sew it up so they packed the wound. I kept having to go back so they could clean it and pack it again,” he said.

Bradley claims he was fired from Ghost Town after the incident, but Ghost Town owner Alaska Presley claims he quit. Bradley said he was able to get unemployment and worker’s compensation to cover his medical expenses even though he refused to take a drug test following the incident. But now he is more concerned about getting to the bottom of what happened on the mountain that day.

The N.C. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Division launched an investigation following a complaint that Ghost Town didn’t have water, proper first-aid materials and someone trained in advanced first aid to handle the injury. That investigation is still ongoing, according to Department of Labor spokesperson Dolores Quensenberry.

Bradley said the OSHA inspector told him that the investigation only looked into the safety concerns at Ghost Town and not any criminal allegations.

If the park is found in violation of OSHA, penalties could reach a maximum of $7,000, but Quensenberry said the department is allowed to take into account certain factors like the size of the business, history and the good faith effort of the employer.

Presley has said she looks forward to the OSHA investigation results, as she is sure it will show that Ghost Town had followed state regulations and had first aid available to Bradley on July 6.

When questioned by The Mountaineer about the allegations on Nov. 5, Maggie Valley Police Chief Scott Sutton said he couldn’t give many details on the matter because the incident is still under investigation by his department. He did say that it was currently being looked at as an accident.

Bradley said the Maggie Valley Police Department called him for the first time on Nov. 7 for questioning.

“I think it was attempted murder,” Bradley said. “That bullet could have easily hit someone watching the gunfight if it were 6 inches one way or the other.”

While he thinks he knows exactly who and how it was done, he doesn’t want to interfere with the ongoing investigation.

Gardner said he was interviewed by OSHA for several hours but has not been contacted by any other law enforcement agency. Since he has been volunteering as a gunfighter since 2007, he said Bradley had trained him well on safety concerns.

“I loved playing a gunfighter,” he said. “We all wanted (Ghost Town) to succeed — that’s why we did it.”

Bradley said Gardner wasn’t the one who loaded the shell in that gun. He doesn’t believe his gunfighters had anything to do with the incident.

Presley said that the gunfighters were professionals and Bradley was always in control of ordering the ammunition used for the gunfights. After Bradley left Ghost Town, Presley got possession of the ammo being used. She said she had to return $11,000 worth of ammo back to the supplier because it was not what the gunfighters should have been using.

Bradley said he had used the same ammunition since 2007 and that his gunfighters were trained to know all of the safety precautions.

In July, Quensenberry said the OSHA investigation could take six to eight weeks, but as of Friday the investigation was still ongoing.