Man's death ruled homicide 35 years later

January 6, 2009 4:51:36 PM PST
A man shot in the back 35 years ago died of complications from the shooting and his death has been ruled a homicide, the Tarrant County medical examiner's office said. Craig Buford, 54, lived a normal life after recovering from severe internal injuries when he was shot by another teenager in Denver in 1973 over a gambling dispute.

The medical examiner's office said Buford's Dec. 29 death was caused by multiple organ failure, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday. He was hospitalized a few days before his death, and doctors determined his colon had ruptured. He underwent surgery before he died.

Once Buford healed after the shooting, his relatives said he had few lasting effects. He drove city buses in Denver and Seattle and was a truck driver before retiring. He moved to Fort Worth about a year ago.

"He never had any serious health problems, so I was a little surprised to hear all this homicide business after all these years," said Buford's wife, Carolyn Buford.

Carolyn Buford said she didn't know her husband at the time of the shooting but that he had told her about it. She said he had gone to school to pick up a girlfriend for lunch and started gambling with other teens. She said he won some money, and the other teens wanted their money back. When Craig Buford refused and began to leave, he was shot in the back.

According to a Denver newspaper article, Craig Buford drove himself to the hospital, where he identified a 17-year-old as the shooter.

Craig Buford didn't dwell on the shooting, his wife said.

"He ran into the guy one time, and he said the guy was kind of scared about seeing him," Carolyn Buford said. "He told him, 'Just forget about it. It's over with."'

Mary Benson, Craig Buford's mother, said she thought the man who shot her son received probation in a plea agreement. A Denver police spokesman said he couldn't find a resolution of the case but probably wouldn't be able to comment because it involved juveniles.

Homicide rulings in such cases are rare but not unprecedented, officials say.

In 2001, David Gunby's death was ruled a homicide caused by complications from a gunshot wound he received in the 1966 University of Texas Tower shootings. By the time Charles Whitman was shot and killed by authorities on the tower's observation deck, 16 people had died. Gunby was among the 31 injured.

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