Vail bar employees, patrons testify at trial
Vail, CO Colorado
GEORGETOWN, Colorado – On the night of the shootings at the Sandbar in West Vail, bar manager Jason Barber said Richard “Rossi” Moreau’s demeanor was initially “normal” and that he did not appear to be intoxicated.
Barber took the stand Wednesday morning as the fifth witness to testify for the prosecution in the Moreau trial, which began Tuesday at the Clear Creek County courthouse in Georgetown. He testified for about an hour about the events on the evening of Nov. 7, 2009.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert asked how Barber’s shift began that evening and how the situation with Moreau, who is accused of first-degree murder and seven other felonies stemming from that evening, escalated.
Barber, who got to work around 6 p.m. that evening, said he knew of Moreau before that night but didn’t know him personally. Barber has worked at the Sandbar for about seven years, and has been general manager for about three years.
As Barber and others escorted Moreau from the bar, the situation didn’t seem any different from any previous times when he had to throw out an unruly patron, he said.
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Barber was asking Moreau to leave because he had been disturbing some other patrons, specifically a table of three men, he said. Barber initially asked Moreau to just leave the other patrons alone, but at that point Moreau was getting upset, Barber said.
“He just kept wanting to talk to them,” Barber said. “At that point, the situation escalated to where I wanted him to leave the bar. I asked him a few times to leave the bar. A few other customers were helping me out. We were just trying to calm him down and asked him to leave.”
Two other Sandbar employees also testified Wednesday morning – bartenders Sarah Bechard and Lindsay Speed.
Bechard worked the day shift Nov. 7, 2009, and remembered serving Moreau three drinks – all Jack Daniels on the rocks. She served him his first drink around “maybe 5:30-ish,” she said.
Speed came in around 6 p.m., and said she did not serve Moreau any drinks. A little over an hour later is when the commotion began between Moreau and the table of three men.
That’s when Barber and bar patron Greg Conway “tried to diffuse the situation,” Speed said.
“They were both very calm – escorting him out as they should have,” Speed said. “(Moreau) just seemed very reluctant to leave.”
Asked to leave
Wednesday’s testimony painted the picture as to why Barber wanted Moreau to leave the Sandbar that evening.
Moreau’s behavior in Sandbar started out as social – witnesses described him as normal or calm when he first arrived at the bar. He immediately started having conversations with both the staff and other patrons, Bechard said. She said she remembered that he came into the bar and sat down, telling her that Veterans Day was coming up.
Bechard also said Moreau told her he hadn’t been in a bar in 20 years, but Bechard knew she had served him at the Sandbar before, adding that at the time of the incident she had worked there for a couple of years.
“Then he was talking to other customers, but he seemed fine,” she said.
Then she noticed that he moved to the other side of the bar and started talking to some patrons there. Some football fans were bickering about their teams and Moreau came into the middle of them and jokingly told them he could take them both down, Bechard said. The situation was light-hearted, though, she said, and she didn’t think anything of it.
Speed then testified that when she started her shift, Moreau had said something inappropriate to her when she lifted her leg to tie her shoe. She was wearing a skirt that night.
“I was caught off guard – I told him not to speak to me that way,” she said.
Speed said she then heard Moreau “talking about Veterans Day and how nobody appreciates the vets.”
As Moreau spoke to some Pittsburgh Steelers fans at the corner of the bar, he told one man, said to be a U.S. Marine, that “you’re a Marine – you know we’re always packing,” Speed said.
During cross-examination, public defender Reed Owens asked if Speed remembered Moreau telling people the government had wronged him. She said yes.
Conway, through the course of the evening, also became someone Moreau interacted with, although the interaction started off rocky.
Conway said he sat at a bar table doing a crossword puzzle when Moreau came over and asked if he “was growing that ponytail just because you can or you just have nothing else to do?”
“You say something like that because you want to mix it up (fight) – and I didn’t want to mix it up,” Conway said.
After saying it a second time and after Conway brushed the question aside again, Moreau then seemed like he wanted to “grace things over,” Conway said.
So the men talked. Conway asked about his appearance – Moreau was wearing a leather jacket with a lot of Vietnam War-related regalia all over it. So the men developed a bit of rapport through their conversation, Conway said.
Later, however, Conway had noticed the tension between Moreau and the Steelers fans, and then between Moreau and the table of construction workers. Conway thought he could calm him down, so he asked if Moreau would go outside to smoke a cigarette with him.
“It got to the point where it seemed like there was going to be a good old fashioned bar fight,” Conway said. “I like the (Sandbar) – it’s my instinct to try to diffuse fights.”
Conway said Moreau then asked him, “Do you know what I’m packing?” Conway said he was referring to a gun.
When Conway told Moreau it was probably 9 millimeter, trying not to appear intimidated, Moreau said, “no, much bigger than that,” Conway said.
Soon after, Conway, Barber, bar patron Chester Noel, who also testified Wednesday, and some other patrons were all escorting Moreau toward the door.
He fell to the ground near the door, which some witnesses described as a simple stumble and fall, and other described it as Moreau pushing his way back toward the bar so as to resist being thrown out.
He fell a second time, and the men helped him back up and were able to get him out the door.
A few feet out the door – Speed testified that it was maybe 5 feet and Barber estimated it was 5-10 feet – is when Moreau reached into his pants in his back waist area and pulled out his .45 caliber gun. Barber was behind him, having just escorted him outside.
“As soon as we got him out and he was walking away, I thought the situation was over,” Barber said.
The situation was only just beginning, though. Moreau pulled out the gun and in one fluid motion turned to his left and fired a shot that hit Barber in his left arm.
Barber ran back inside to the Sandbar, and Moreau wasn’t far behind him.
“I went into the office to get on the phone with 911,” Barber said.
Speed was already back there calling 911, she testified. She saw a big flash from the gun, she said, and turned and ran.
“It was extremely loud, and very close,” Speed said.
Barber described all of the interaction with Moreau leading up to the shooting as coherent – Moreau wasn’t talking gibberish and appeared to be lucid.
Conway, who was still inside the bar when Moreau came in shooting, had taken off his vest and wrapped it around Barber’s wound as Barber had come back out from the office and was now laying on the ground bleeding.
Conway said the shooting was not all at once. He said he heard a shot, then a pause, then a couple of more shots, then another pause. That’s the rhythm of how the shooting went down.
“It was very slow and deliberate – methodical,” Conway said.
That statement goes against the defense’s argument that Moreau did not act with intent or “after deliberation,” which is what defense attorneys are arguing with relation to Moreau’s mental state. Owens calls the events of Nov. 7, 2009, a culmination of the “perfect storm” – Moreau’s alleged post traumatic stress disorder from the Vietnam War, his medication relating to that disorder, and an environment in the Sandbar in which he felt everyone was ganging up on him.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.