‘I’m Your Huckleberry’: Air Force Uses Set, Characters From ‘Tombstone’ for CSI Training

July 3, 2021Hannah Ray Lambert

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in ‘Tombstone.’ Screenshot from Tombstone.

Agents with the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations got to learn crime scene documentation skills recently at one of the most recognizable Western movie sets around. Last month, OSI officers from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, just outside Tucson, Arizona, went to Mescal Movie Set, where the majority of the iconic 1993 Western Tombstone was filmed. 

Forensic science consultants from the 12th Field Investigations Squadron at Buckley AFB, Colorado, re-created the murder scenes of town marshal Fred White and Morgan Earp from Tombstone, using the same buildings from the film and period clothing, weapons, and other movie props. Training focused on crime scene documentation such as photography, sketching the scene, and locating and collecting evidence — an Old West-style revolver in this case.

air force osi training tombstone
From left, 355th Security Forces Investigator Christopher Lewis and Office of Special Investigations Detachment 217 Special Agent Devon Henry measure points of interest at a “murder” scene during training at Mescal Movie Set on June 11, 2021, in Mescal, Ariz. Photo courtesy of OSI Public Affairs.

Lt. Col. Special Agent John Hoffmann, commander of Davis-Monthan’s OSI Detachment 217, conceived the hands-on training idea while he and his wife were watching a show at the Gunfight Palace in Tombstone, Arizona, which looked like an Old West saloon.

“I thought it would be interesting to use a set like that to do crime scene training” for the forensic consultants, Hoffmann said in a news release. “I wanted to make the training interesting by incorporating some of the local history as the backdrop, instead of the usual dorm room or day room.”

Mescal was his Huckleberry.

Kyle Sitkowksi, 355th Security Forces investigator, left, and Matthew Simonton, a special agent and forensic science consultant for the Office of Special Investigations, 12th Field Investigations Squadron, discuss the murder of Morgan Earp during training June 11, 2021, at Mescal Movie Set in Arizona. Photo courtesy of OSI Public Affairs.

The training gave officers the opportunity to work together and enhance their “crime scene investigation skills in a fun, historically-rich environment,” said 355th Assistant Staff Judge Advocate Capt. Jordan Grande. Including judge advocate and security forces members in OSI’s training also allowed the different teams to practice investigating criminal matters as a cohesive unit.

OSI is considering using the set again for future training. Volunteers have been restoring Mescal in hopes of soon offering guided tours for the public.

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Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

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