BILLINGS, Mont. — A West Virginia man who told authorities he was hitchhiking across the country and writing a memoir about kindness was injured in a seemingly random drive-by shooting near Montana’s booming Bakken oil patch.
Ray Dolin, 39, was shot in the arm as he approached a pickup Saturday evening, thinking the driver was offering him a ride, said Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier.
The freelance photographer, who runs a business called OneShot Impressions, was injured about three miles west of the town of Glasgow, along rural U.S. Highway 2, a major route into and out of the oil patch.
A 52-year-old man from Washington state, Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, was arrested about four hours later near Culbertson. Authorities said Danielson was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They released no motive in the shooting.
“He was sitting down to have a little lunch and this guy drives up. He thought he was going to give him a ride and as he approached the vehicle, the guy pulls out his weapon and shoots him. It’s as simple as that,” Meier said.
Danielson was apparently headed to Williston, N.D., for work tied to the oil boom, although Meier said he has offered few details. Danielson’s brother, Tim Danielson, said he left home weeks ago, heading to the Bakken for work. He declined to comment further.
The shooting follows another random attack in which a popular 43-year-old teacher from the oil patch town of Sidney, Mont., was allegedly kidnapped and killed by two Colorado men on their way to the Bakken earlier this year.
As the men await trial in the murder of teacher Sherry Arnold, the case has stoked worries that a once-quiet corner of Montana has been irreversibly altered by the oil boom. Crime rates across western North Dakota and eastern Montana have spiked as thousands of workers flock to a region that has become one of the top-oil producing areas of the country.
But Meier said Danielson’s quick arrest by deputies in Roosevelt County 100 miles away from the shooting shows law enforcement is keeping up with the changes.
“We’re still the wonderful people in Montana we’ve always been, and we’ll get through this,” Meier said. “Things are going to happen whether there’s the Bakken or not.”
Meier did not know if any words were exchanged between the alleged shooter and victim before Dolin was shot. He said they did not know one another.
Dolin was being treated at Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital in Glasgow. A nurse said Monday he was not taking calls or accepting messages.
Dolin had told sheriff’s officials that he was writing a memoir titled “Kindness in America.” His father, Melvin Dolin, in Julian, W. Va., declined to speak about his son’s plans, saying he had been working on his photography.
“I’d rather you eventually get that story from him. He had some ideas about that,” he said.
After graduating from college in recent years, Ray Dolin started OneShot Impressions to pursue freelance photography, his father said. The business’ website features a logo of the cross hairs of a rifle scope, and has a statement from Dolin citing photography and travel as “two of my greatest passions in life.”
Dolin left West Virginia last week bound for Washington state, Melvin Dolin said. He took a bus to the edge of Montana and intended to work his way to Washington from there, the father said.
“He was on the way across the country taking pictures,” Melvin Dolin said, adding that his son’s travel plans had been flexible. “He was going to make up his mind as he travelled along. But he didn’t get that far.”
Glasgow is about 120 miles west of the Montana-North Dakota border. Still dominated by agriculture, the town of about 3,000 residents is increasingly feeling the effects of the oil boom to the east.
Danielson was jailed on suspicion of felony assault with a weapon and driving under the influence. He did not enter a plea during an initial court appearance Monday, and City Judge Traci Harada set bail for Danielson at $50,000 on the assault charge and $685 for the DUI. He was expected to make another court appearance Tuesday.
The sheriff’s office had identified Danielson as a resident of Olympia, Wash., but he said in court that he was from Tumwater, Wash., Harada said. Danielson has criminal convictions in King County, Wash., for assault, unlawful possession of a firearm, obstruction of law enforcement and exhibiting or carrying a weapon with intent to intimidate. Records show he was sentenced in 2005 to 8 months in jail on the charges.