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Wounded actor was playing Russian roulette, police say

LOS ANGELES -- Jon-Erik Hexum, star of TV's 'Coverup' series, was playing Russian roulette with a stage pistol when it went off and critically wounded him in the head, police said.

Detectives revealed Tuesday that Hexum loaded three empty cartridges and two gunpowder-filled blanks into a .44 Magnum during a break in filming, said to crew members, 'Let's see if I've got one for me,' and then fired the gun.

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A blank round fired and its explosion fractured the actor's skull near his right temple, causing swelling in the brain. Police closed their investigation of the shooting Monday, ruling it accidental, said Detective Gary Fullerton.

Hexum, 27, who was wounded at 20th Century Fox Studios last Friday, underwent five hours of surgery at Beverly Hills Medical Center and remained in critical condition.

The actor was sitting near the set with three crew members waiting for a scene change when he put the cartridges into the handgun, Fullerton said. Hexum was holding the gun 'within an inch' of his skull when he fired. The cotton and paper wadding of the blank round exploded against the actor's right temple.

'It was like some kind of Russian roulette,' Fullerton said, adding that if one of the chambers containing an empty cartridge had been fired, Hexum would not have been injured.

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Witnesses told police they were unaware of the explosive force of the blank charges.

'No one realized the danger it could do,' Fullerton said.

'We don't know if he was showing off, or why he did it,' said Lt. Richard Carpenter. 'But it was accidental, and we've closed the investigation.'

Studio officials said Tuesday they would finish the episode being shot when Hexum was injured, but because of the actor's pivotal role in the 'Coverup' series, no decision had been made on the future of the program.

Hexum's co-star, Jennifer O'Neill, who ironically shot herself accidentally two years ago, was not on the set when the accident happened.

Dr. David Ditsworth, who operated on Hexum, was not available for comment, but an employee at Ditsworth's office said the Hexum family has instructed that any information on the actor's condition be withheld.

Letters and phone calls from Hexum's fans continued to flood Beverly Hills Medical Center, where an operator said calls have come from all over the country.

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