An Albany County man shot a stranger late last month at the Willow Campground west of Centennial, according to charging documents filed by Albany County prosecutors.
John Howitt had been camping at the site for five days when he shot someone in the leg after dark on July 24, according to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. Howitt’s case has been bound over to district court in Laramie, and he remains in custody as of Thursday afternoon.
Howitt told sheriff’s deputies that a visibly intoxicated man had frightened him, and that he shot at the man’s leg in self-defense. Officials have not released the name of the man who was shot.
The man had acted belligerently toward him earlier in the night, then returned later at night, Howitt told police. The man rubbed against a car that Howitt was sleeping inside and threatened to beat up Howitt when he was asked to leave, Howitt told responding officers.
Howitt claimed that he shot the man once in the leg when he was within an arm’s reach of the rear passenger-side door, and that he feared for his life when he shot, according to the sheriff’s office. Howitt did not know the man, and it was too dark outside to see whether he was armed.
The victim told police that he had not had a confrontation with anyone that night, and that he never met Howitt, according to the sheriff’s office.
“While walking down a road in the campground, he felt a sharp pain in his left hip area and realized he had been shot,” officials said. He had arrived at the campground less than half an hour before and taken his dog for a walk.
The victim denied that he was drunk or otherwise intoxicated when he was shot.
Sheriff’s deputies inspected the scene of the shooting and determined that Howitt’s story of a confrontation was likely not true, according to court documents.
The victim was found at least 10 feet from Howitt’s car when sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, and they did not find any blood closer to the vehicle, which would have supported Howitt’s claim of a confrontation.
In addition, the trajectory of the bullet, horizontal through his hip area, would not have been possible if the victim was as close to the car as Howitt claimed, according to the sheriff’s office.
Howitt has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.