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GOP Senate Candidate Sheehy Has Mystery Bullet in His Arm

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Tim Sheehy, a Republican Senate candidate in Montana, is a Navy SEAL veteran who struck it rich opening an aerial forest-fighting company — solid credentials for a campaign. But as he gets closer to winning the primary nomination and setting up a competitive matchup with incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, one biographical detail has proved a persistent distraction: the bullet in his right arm.

On the campaign trail, Sheehy has said that he was shot in the arm during a mission in Afghanistan in 2012. “I got thick skin, though it’s not thick enough,” Sheehy told voters at a campaign event in December. “I have a bullet stuck in this arm still from Afghanistan.” But the Washington Post has found a different possible origin story for that bullet. The Post reported that during an October 2015 visit to Glacier National Park in Montana, Sheehy sought ought medical attention, informing a ranger that he had dropped his Colt .45 while getting into his truck; the revolver went off when it hit the ground, and he was struck by the bullet. On Wednesday, the Post published documents from the National Park Service detailing Sheehy’s 2015 version of events.

“As a highly trained and combat experienced wounded veteran, I can assure you this was an unfortunate accident and we are grateful no other persons or property were damaged,” Sheehy apologized in a statement to the law-enforcement officer tasked with the case. He asked for “leniency” from the officer “due to my ongoing security clearance and involvement with national defense related contracts.”

Other documents discovered by the Washington Post corroborate the accidental-discharge account. The ranger who aided Sheehy wrote in a 2015 incident report that Sheehy’s revolver slid off a pile of gear in Sheehy’s truck, at which point it hit the ground, firing a bullet that hit Sheehy.

At first, this seems like a fairly straightforward political scandal, with Sheehy lying about wartime heroics and ignoring a far more embarrassing story. But Sheehy has offered an unusual defense. He says he actually lied to law enforcement nine years ago, but for good reason:

Sheehy says that his gunshot wound that day was old, not fresh, and that he sought medical attention because he fell during a hike and feared he had dislodged a bullet in his arm from Afghanistan that he had never reported to his superiors, for fear of sparking an investigation into its origins. Sheehy said he believed the bullet may have been the result of a friendly fire ricochet during a nighttime firefight in April or May of 2012.

This is not the first time that Sheehy, who received a Purple Heart after he was knocked unconscious by an IED blast, has been unclear about his war wounds. The Post found that in his 2023 memoir, Mudslingers, Sheehy wrote in one chapter that he was shot several times in Afghanistan; elsewhere in the book, that he was shot just once. In another chapter, Sheehy wrote that he was hit by a “friendly ricochet bullet” in Afghanistan but did not report the incident because he did not want an investigation into the person who shot him, whom he describes as “a total stud who went on to a successful career as a SEAL.”

Wherever the bullet came from, the changing story does not appear to have hurt his chances in the Senate primary on June 4, in which he has Donald Trump’s endorsement and is expected to win easily.

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