Nolan Feeney
June 18, 2012 AT 09:44 PM EDT

Talk about a plot twist. A West Virginia man hitchhiking across the country for a memoir project titled Kindness in America claimed he was shot in Montana, but it turns out he allegedly made the whole thing up.

Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier told the Associated Press that Ray Dolin, the 39-year-old photographer behind the project, admitted to fabricating the story — and shooting himself — after a confrontation with investigators in the hospital where he was recovering.

What appeared to be an ironic act of violence now appears to be a “desperate act of self-promotion.”

Authorities had arrested 52-year-old Charles Lloyd Danielson for allegedly shooting Dolin, but he was released Thursday, and the felony assault charge against him has since been dropped.

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