The suspect in the seemingly random shooting of a photographer hitchhiking along a rural Montana highway has been cleared of the crime and the investigation is continuing, authorities said Thursday.
Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier said Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, 52, of Tumwater, Wash., "had nothing to do with the shooting" that left hitchhiker Ray Dolin with an injury to his armpit.
Danielson was arrested Saturday about four hours after the shooting and 100 miles away. He was charged with felony assault with a weapon.
Dolin told authorities that he was shot after he stopped for a meal along the side of U.S. Highway 2 near Glasgow.
But in his first interview, the 39-year-old freelance photographer from Julian, W.Va., told The Associated Press on Thursday 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.
He said he never approached the vehicle, which he described as a maroon pickup, the same color and type of vehicle that Danielson was driving when he was arrested.
Dolin spoke from a hospital in Miles City, where he said he was undergoing therapy for his injured arm.
Meier says Danielson was cleared after investigators searched his pickup and determined he was not responsible. The sheriff declined to give details and said the investigation continues.
"He's definitely not the shooter," Meier said, adding that authorities expect to make a breakthrough in the case soon.
Danielson remained in custody. He was transferred to a jail in Roosevelt County — where he was first arrested — to face a separate charge of driving under the influence. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Asked about the release of Danielson, Dolin said he was reluctant to comment because of the ongoing investigation.
Dolin runs a photography business called OneShot Impressions, which has as its logo the cross-hairs of a rifle scope.
He said he had recently taken a bus from West Virginia to Sidney, Mont., and then began traveling across the state working on a photographic memoir he called "Kindness of America."
During Thursday's interview, Dolin related several stories in which he said strangers had helped him along his journey.
In the first days after the shooting, hospital officials in Glasgow said Dolin did not want to take any calls from the media. On Thursday, he said "at this point honestly I don't care if anyone does (a story) or not."
"That's not what this is all about. I would really like to emphasize my appreciation for the community of Glasgow," he said. He added that he was unsure if he would continue his journey toward his original destination of Washington state.
"If it's not today, I've proved my point that there's more good in America than people think," he said.