Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Investigation discounts park shooting victim's story

SPENCER- Indiana Conservation Officers don't believe a Bloomington man's story that he was shot by an unknown person while visiting McCormick's Creek State Park on June 25.

Instead, Conservation Officers say evidence suggests Peter Raventos, 43, shot himself in a staged incident designed to portray him as the victim of a random shooting.

Conservation Officers turned over the case to Owen County Prosecuting Attorney Don VanDerMoere, who has charged Raventos with obstruction of justice, a Class D felony, and false informing, a Class B misdemeanor. Raventos turned himself in to the Owen County Sheriff's Department this morning. At his initial hearing, bond was set at $5,000.

"This incident, whatever the motive, placed needless fear in the public's mind that our state parks are unsafe," DNR director Rob Carter said. "We do everything we can to make state parks an enjoyable experience for visitors, above all families. I'm pleased that our Law Enforcement Division was able to get to the bottom of this and bring it to a quick resolution so the public can have peace of mind when they visit the park."

On June 25, Conservation Officers and other agencies responded to a 911 call at 10:05 p.m. reporting that a man had been shot at McCormick's Creek. The call was made by Raventos, who told Conservation Officers he was shot in the back by an unknown assailant while walking along a park trail.

Conservation Officers, McCormick's Creek staff, the Owen County Sheriff's Department, Spencer Police, and Indiana State Police conducted a thorough search of the park and nearby area for a possible suspect but found none.

Raventos, meanwhile, was taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he was treated for wounds inflicted by more than 20 shotgun pellets and later released.

From witness interviews and evidence found at the scene and at Raventos' home, Conservation Officers have since concluded that Raventos rigged a shotgun so he could fire it at himself from some distance.

Witness statements led Conservation Officers to an area of the park where the shooting was believed to have occurred. There they found bungee cords, fishing line, a spent shotgun shell, an unspent shotgun shell, and a small piece of plywood embedded with shotgun pellets.

Conservation Officer K-9 units searching the area also found a shotgun wad-a small plastic cup inside a shotgun shell casing that separates the pellets from the gunpowder. When fired, the wad is expelled and falls to the ground.

Conservation Officer scuba divers searched the nearby White River and located a 20-gauge shotgun that was later linked to Raventos.

Search warrants for Raventos' home, cell phone, and vehicle turned up additional evidence.

McCormick's Creek is located in Owen County and was established in 1916 as Indiana's first state park. Originally 350 acres, the park now covers nearly 2,000 acres and includes two state-designated nature preserves-McCormick's Cove and Wolf Cave.

Limestone formations, scenic waterfalls, wooded trails, and a canyon surrounded by high cliffs are natural features of the park, which also offers visitors more than 200 campsites, an inn, family cabins, picnic shelters, a nature center, and a swimming pool.