By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - A man who claimed he was shot by a passing motorist in Montana while on a cross-country hitchhiking tour for a book about kindness in America has confessed to shooting himself in a desperate bid for attention, authorities said on Friday.
Ray Dolin, 39, admitted to the hoax when pressed by Valley County deputies, who had begun to believe that a man they had arrested on suspicion of committing the supposed drive-by shooting was innocent, Sheriff Glen Meier said.
The irony of a man being shot by a stranger while trekking across the country to gather material for a book about kindness made international headlines when the incident was reported this week.
The wrongly accused suspect, Lloyd Danielson III, 52, was taken into custody on Saturday, about 100 miles from the scene of the alleged attack, because the pickup he was driving matched the description of a truck given by Dolan.
But Danielson's alibi held up under questioning and Dolin's story unraveled as tracking information taken from a GPS device in Danielson's truck showed he had not been in the vicinity of the shooting when it was reported to have occurred.
When confronted by deputies on Thursday night about inconsistencies in the evidence, Dolin, who is from Julian, West Virginia, confessed to having shot himself in the arm with a small-caliber handgun and fabricating the tale of being shot by a stranger.
A felony assault charge against Danielson was subsequently dropped, the sheriff said.
Prosecutors are evaluating whether Dolin violated a Montana law against submitting false information to law enforcement officers and tampering with evidence, Meier said.
Dolin's motivations were not immediately clear, Meier said. What was certain, he said, is that the freelance photographer sought attention.
"If you wanted to remain incognito, you wouldn't shoot yourself in the arm, holler and scream and make up stories," the sheriff told Reuters.
Meier said Dolin knew a suspect had been arrested but did not admit the hoax until pressed by investigators.
The Montana hospital where Dolin was undergoing treatment for the arm injury said he was not accepting telephone calls.
His father, Melvin Dolin, told Reuters that he did not believe his son inflicted the gunshot wound to promote the planned book.
"The purpose of the trip was to talk to people, get their ideas, take pictures," he said. "He just felt like he was at the end of the road, I'm sure of that. But God preserved him for some reason and I'm grateful."
(Reporting and writing by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Stacey Joyce)