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.
It wasn’t long after Moreau arrived in Vail that he made himself known to the Vail PD. In 1976, according to records obtained from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Moreau was arrested for driving drunk. In 1980, Moreau was busted for something more ornery: The Boulder police arrested him for trespassing and “resisting an officer.” Months later, Eagle County police nabbed him for driving drunk, again. A few years later, according to the CBI reports, Eagle County police bagged Moreau for possession of “dangerous drugs.”
In the ’90s, Moreau got in more trouble. He was arrested four times. In 1992, it was for larceny and check fraud. Next, in March 1995, Moreau’s behavior became more openly hostile. Moreau walked into Garfinkel’s, a Vail bar, with a “cowboy-type” hat on his head and, according to a police report of the night, a Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun between his waistband and lower back. There was a round in the chamber and 15 rounds in a magazine.
Moreau spotted what he thought was a plain-clothes cop in the bar. Matt Miller was actually a Garfs part-time employee who had the night off. Moreau approached Miller and asked if he was a cop. Miller figured he’d play along, indicating to Moreau that yeah, I’m a cop. According to a police report, Moreau slid his hand around his own back and advised Miller to not do anything stupid. Moreau’s tone and movement conveyed to Miller, and a few nearby patrons, that Moreau was reaching for a gun. Miller quickly abandoned the act, and Moreau backed off. The door manager called the police. When the cops arrived and found Moreau near the pool tables in the back of the restaurant, he fessed up to having a gun. Even though he didn’t have a conceal-and-carry permit, he said, it was his constitutional right to carry a firearm. The police told him it wasn’t necessary for him to be armed and what’s more, that it was illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Moreau said he was probably going to keep carrying anyway. He pleaded guilty to the concealed weapon charge.
The very next year, Moreau was arrested, again, for larceny. Two years later it was guns—again. And this time a Vail police officer responded to a report of “shots fired.” Officer Brad Baldwin wrote in his report of that September 1998 night, that as he sped toward the Hamlet condos, Moreau’s name popped into his head. The cop, as he noted in his report, knew Moreau lived at the condos and liked to carry a weapon; he and others in the department had responded to calls there specific to Moreau.
Sure enough, there was Moreau in a jean jacket and blue jeans sitting on the front steps of Unit 17 with a .45 in his right hand and ammunition in his right breast pocket: He had a magazine with at least five rounds. Moreau fought and cursed officers as they took him into custody. A woman who watched the incident told police she’d often hear Moreau shrieking in the middle of the night. The woman told police that she even bought a fan to drown out the sounds.
On the ride to the station, according to Baldwin’s report, he could smell the booze on Moreau’s breath. Moreau slurred sentences about ’Nam and how he was a disabled veteran. At the Vail PD, Moreau told Baldwin there was no reason for the neighbors to be scared because he loads his bullet shells himself, doesn’t use very much gunpowder. Moreau said he was 100 percent disabled from Vietnam, and had every right to carry a gun and fire it.
Moreau was charged with reckless endangerment, prohibited use of a weapon, and two counts of obstructing a peace officer. He pleaded guilty to the weapons charge. The other charges were dismissed. As part of that November 1998 sentence, Moreau’s probation prohibited him from possessing a firearm for a year. A week after he was arrested, Moreau called Baldwin to apologize. According to a report Baldwin filed, Moreau told Baldwin he was sorry. Moreau said he screwed up. He said his life was a mess.