Vail shooting victim: ‘I really believed I was going to die’
Vail, CO Colorado
GEORGETOWN, Colorado – Vail resident James Lindley was in a coma for 12 days after sustaining three gunshot wounds at the Sandbar in West Vail Nov. 7, 2009. As he testified for the prosecution in the Richard Moreau first-degree murder trial Thursday morning, he said he feels lucky to be alive.
Lindley was still visibly upset about what happened that night. He had gone to the Sandbar to eat some tacos and have a beer. He said he had planned to work one more day before going on a vacation.
When Sandbar employees and patrons were escorting Moreau from the bar that night after Moreau apparently agitated some other customers, Lindley didn’t notice it from where he was sitting, he said. He had other things on his mind and wasn’t paying attention.
He heard the gunshots, though.
“I remember someone saying, ‘It’s a .22, it’s a .22,” Lindley testified. “Then, all of a sudden, he pointed the gun at me and a flame came out of the gun and I was shot. It wasn’t a .22.”
Lindley told Moreau he shattered his elbow with the shot. He asked him why he did it.
“Then he shot me two more times,” Lindley said. “I really believed I was going to die.”
Lindley said he felt Moreau was pleased about what he had just done.
“When he shot me, he seemed really happy about it – he had a look of glee on his face,” Lindley said.
As public defender Dana Christiansen cross-examined Lindley, he focused on whether the two had interacted at all before the gunshots. Lindley said they did not.
He asked if Lindley had done anything that would have given Moreau a reason to shoot him.
Lindley replied, “I was there.”
Harry “Buck” Hamborsky was in the Sandbar Nov. 7, 2009, with his family – they were in Colorado from Pennsylvania for the Monday night Steelers game against the Denver Broncos and had been skiing at Copper Mountain earlier that day.
When Hamborsky ran out the back door after hearing gunshots, he thought his wife, son and daughter were all with him, but he noticed his son – his stepson, Ian Sage – was not there and he needed to find him.
Hamborsky got choked up on the witness stand as he described the feeling of not knowing where his son was. He paused for a moment to regain his emotions before continuing to tell the court what happened after that.
“I started to go in the front door to see if my son was still in there,” Hamborsky said.
Moreau then pointed a gun at him, he said, and asked what he was doing there. Hamborsky said he was looking for his son, and then ran back outside and toward the other Sandbar front door entrance. When he opened that door, he heard his son yell from the parking lot, “Dad, I’m out here,” Hamborsky testified.
That’s when he noticed Lindley inside. He was on the ground and bleeding badly, Hamborsky said. So he and another man, who he recalls as John, went inside to drag Lindley out.
“That’s the only reason I survived,” Lindley testified.
During cross-examination, public defenders Christiansen and Reed Owens wanted to know if the prosecution’s witnesses heard Moreau say anything when he shot, whether they had seen or interacted with Moreau ever before and whether they thought there was any reason for Moreau shooting the particular people he shot.
They homed in on certain comments that seem to back up their defense – that Moreau was not mentally capable of forming the intent, after deliberation, to shoot those people that night.
When Hamborsky said Moreau looked through him when he pointed the gun at him, Owens focused on that statement.
“You said he looked through you and pointed the gun,” Owens said.
Later, when cross-examining Shannon Rager, a Sandbar waitress on the night of Nov. 7, 2009, Owens asked her whether more and more people were surrounding Moreau as he was being escorted outside, to which she answered yes.
Christiansen also focused on the number of people surrounding Moreau while cross-examining Bryant Compton, a bar patron that night.
Christiansen asked if the people pushed Moreau out the door and asked if the size of the group had grown.
The growing number of people surrounding Moreau supports the defense’s argument that the feeling that people were surrounding him, ganging up on him, combined with post-traumatic stress disorder from the Vietnam War and his various medications, created this perfect storm in which he snapped.
Christiansen then focused again on the intent of the shootings, confirming with Compton that the person he saw Moreau aim at and shoot hadn’t interacted with him at all earlier.
“In fact, it made no sense, right?” Christiansen said, to which Compton agreed.
Owens later reminded prosecution witness Anton Eisel that he told a police officer that night that Moreau “didn’t seem totally with it,” and looked “delirious.”
Owens said during opening statements Tuesday that events in Moreau’s life leading up to the events at the Sandbar, all of which will be brought up during the trial, would show that he wasn’t able “to form the mental state” that night.
“I’m going to ask that you find Rossi not guilty of forming the culpable mental state, not guilty of acting after deliberation, not guilty of forming the intent,” Owens told the jury Tuesday. “I will ask you to dig deeper, below the surface.”
The prosecution alleges that Moreau aimed at people, that he fired deliberately and that he acted with intent, after deliberation. Several witnesses remember Moreau’s firing as very precise.
“He wasn’t waving the gun around shooting randomly,” Compton said. “The shots I saw him take were very deliberate. He knew what he was doing at that point.”
The prosecution expects to wrap up its case Monday, turning it over to the defense to call its witnesses throughout the remainder of the week.