Police recommend 1st degree murder charges against Vail man after shooting
November 8, 2009
VAIL – A longtime Vail resident who has been accused of murder in Saturday night’s shooting in West Vail will appear in court today.
Richard “Rossi” Moreau, 63, is scheduled to appear in the Eagle Combined Courts at 11:30 a.m. Police are recommending a charge of first-degree homicide.
One person was killed and three were injured when gunfire broke out at the Sandbar in West Vail at around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The man who died has been identified as Gary Bruce Kitching, 70, of Carbondale. There was no answer Sunday at a number listed for Kitching in Carbondale.
Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said Kitching was shot three times, in the chest, arm and thigh.
Moreau was taken into custody inside the Sandbar about 29 minutes after police received initial reports of the shootings, authorities said.
The injured victims include a 63-year-old Vail resident who sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was transported via helicopter to Denver Health with “life threatening” injuries, said Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger.
A 29-year-old victim remains in the Vail Valley Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the arm, and a 25-year-old was released from the Vail hospital after being treated for a leg wound.
The 29-year-old was a Sandbar employee, while the other three victims, including Kitching, were patrons, Henninger said.
The shooter appears to have acted alone, and there are no other suspects, Henninger said.
Crime scene in West Vail
A motive for the shooting is not known, but witnesses said the gunman was involved in an argument and was escorted out of the bar by staff, police said. Once outside, he began shooting, authorities said. He then re-entered the bar and continued shooting, police said.
The suspect used a semi-automatic .45 caliber handgun, Henninger said. Witnesses described hearing between six and 12 shots.
It’s not clear whether Moreau knew any of the people that were shot, Henninger said. One witness said Saturday the first man shot was a manager at the bar who was attempting to escort the gunman out of the bar.
Moreau was being served alcohol before the incident, but it was not clear how long he was at the bar, Henninger said. None of the witnesses was aware Moreau had a gun before the shooting began, the police chief said.
“As far as we’re aware, he did not have concealed weapons permit,” Henninger said.
Forty-two witnesses were working with police to provide statements, he said.
Businesses in the West Vail mall, including the Sandbar, remained closed Sunday morning, cordoned off by yellow crime-scene tape, as investigators gathered evidence. Officials said they know of two homicides that have occurred in Vail in its 47-year history, both in the late ’70s or early ’80s.
“This is a very safe community,” Henninger said. “Other than a few shoving matches once in a while, we’re a very safe place. So it’s a real strike to the community, a real blow to us. So it’s very difficult for us to deal with this from a community perspective.”
In a 2006 interview in the Vail Daily, Moreau said he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since 1979 after serving two tours of duty in Vietnam in the late ’60s. He said he is a New Hampshire native, moved to Vail in 1970 and skis more than 150 days a year.
“Mr. Moreau been around since the ’70s and is a very colorful person,” Henninger said. “Many people in the community know of him. There are lots of stories; I don’t know how many of them are true or not. He has had his brushes with law enforcement, but I don’t really know all of the specifics of what those might be.”
Pat Hammon, community service officer for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10721, said Moreau was not a member of the post but has participated in veterans’ events with the group over the years, including the annual Fourth of July parade in Vail.
“Rossi was a very likable guy in very many ways,” Hammon said “He was a lot of fun and a great skier and had a great love for Vail. But Rossi had a lot of problems. He had his demons he was working with.”
He would speak of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Hammon said. He also would tell members of his financial problems and appeal to them for help, she said.
“This is a very difficult thing for all of us,” Hammon said.
‘He was different’
Former Vail Fire Chief John Gulick first met Moreau in the mid-’70s, when Moreau was a volunteer firefighter with the Vail Fire Protection District.
“He was different,” Gulick said. “I knew he was a Vietnam vet, and I always respected that. I think he tried to find camaraderie in the fire department as he did with his unit overseas. … He wanted to be part of something here in Vail, be a part of a group.”
Moreau was generally upbeat when they interacted, Gulick said. Moreau has called Gulick from time of time in recent years – the last time they talked, about two years ago, Moreau was distraught over the loss of his cat.
“He just needed a friend to bend an ear,” Gulick said. “He lost his little buddy, and he was very upset about it.”
Several years ago, Moreau had considered returning to the fire department, but decided at the last moment not to take the requisite tests, Gulick. He ended up doing some odd jobs around the firehouse for a while, Gulick said.
Gulick said he was shocked by the accusations against Moreau.
“I can’t believe he would take it that far,” Gulick said. “I’m shocked by it, because I didn’t know him that well, but knew him as a person who wanted to help other people and be part of a group.”
Dick Cleveland, mayor of Vail, longtime resident and a former police officer in the town, said he can never recall anyone being shot to death in Vail.
“Especially something like this, that happens in a public place,” Cleveland said. “We’ve had fights, stabbings, assaults with pipes and all sorts of things happen in bars in the 30 years I’ve been here. But to have (something like this), it’s never happened here.”
Cleveland said he’s shocked and saddened by the incident, especially in light of the other mass shootings that have occurred around the nation in recent days.
“Devastating to the community, devastating to everybody,” Cleveland said. “Our heart goes out of the families of those involved and to the people who were wounded.”