A Murder in Vail

"Do you know how long I've been trying not to do this?"
One year ago this month, Richard Moreau went on a shooting spree in a Vail bar and killed a man. It was the first homicide in the posh resort town in three decades. What went wrong? Good question.

November 2010

Somewhere around 7:30 p.m. on that night last November, Richard Moreau clenched the handle of his .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun and walked into the Sandbar Sports Grill. Short and burly, the 63-year-old had a crazed look in his deep-set eyes, an unkempt gray beard, and three nickel-sized snowflakes tattooed on his left cheek.

Jim Lindley happened to be standing in Moreau’s line of sight. Wrong place, wrong time. Just like everyone else in the bar. It didn’t seem like it at that moment, but Lindley was lucky—lucky Moreau wasn’t holding one of his rifles, or his 12-gauge, semiautomatic sawed-off shotgun, or one of his 19 swords. Moreau fired two rounds at Lindley; one of the shots shattered his left elbow. Moreau paused to reload.

The lull was just long enough for Lindley to wonder why a man he’d never met was shooting at him. Another minute and Lindley wouldn’t have been there. Done with his taco and Sierra Nevada, he had dropped money on the bar and was headed home to pack for a California trip to see family. Moreau fired two more rounds. Lindley’s knees buckled and his body smacked the sticky bar floor. Moreau moved passed Lindley, deeper into the bar.

Outside, about the length of a football field away from the bar, a woman stood in the West Vail Mall parking lot adjacent to a McDonald’s, gasping at the mountain air. She’d just watched a Sandbar staffer get shot. She was the first to dial 911.

“Um. I. Someone’s shooting at the Sandbar.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I said a guy is shooting in the Sandbar.”

“There’s an actual gun?”

“Yes, an actual gun.”

No one could have faulted the dispatcher for double-checking the report of an actual gun. After all, this was Vail—the ski-resort town where there’s not much crime, let alone shooting sprees.

“We need an ambulance and the cops,” the woman shouted into the phone. “Now!”

Moreau had made his way to a corner of the bar. He sat on the ground next to a table near the kitchen. His back pressed against a wall and his feet spread in front of him in the shape of a ‘V.’ His shoulders drooped. His right arm was outstretched, parallel with the ground, and his fingers were still wrapped around his handgun. He looked like a man who was at once defeated and defiant; resigned to whatever had happened and to whatever may come next.

Gary Kitching, an adventurous and fit 70-year-old, wandered around the corner of the bar directly opposite Moreau. Wrong place, wrong time. Kitching was likely looking for his wife, Lani, who was hiding behind a nearby coffee table and couch. If only the couple had opted to watch the University of Southern California football game at home in Carbondale.

Moreau aimed at Kitching and pulled the trigger without any visible hesitation. The former Navy lieutenant crumpled. Moreau pointed his gun at the motionless Kitching and fired twice more. Three shots in all: arm, thigh, chest. From his seated position, Moreau slid down along the wall until he was lying on the ground, only a few feet from where Kitching was bleeding, dying.

The woman in the parking lot had called 911 at 7:28 p.m. Twenty-nine minutes later, Lt. Greg Daly of the Avon Police Department found Moreau in the corner of the bar. Daly turned his handgun on Moreau and ordered him to drop his weapon. Moreau asked Daly to “go ahead and shoot me.” Daly wrestled Moreau’s gun from his hand and cuffed him. Vail Police officer Ryan Millbern got to Moreau shortly after Daly. Millbern recognized the shooter. Millbern knew him as many folks around town knew him, by his nickname: Rossi. He’d also seen Moreau’s name around the Vail Police Department—on a list of locals to watch. When Millbern reached him, Moreau was babbling and blurted: “Do you know how long I’ve been trying not to do this?”