Vail shooting victim on road to recovery
VAIL – Jim Lindley is slowly returning to normal life in Vail, Colorado.
The splint on his elbow will come off next week. He’s getting therapy on his arm twice a week, and he’s working out every other day. He’ll hopefully be returning to work as a cook at the Vail hospital in a couple of weeks.
“I’m optimistic that I’ll make pretty much a full recovery,” Lindley said. “Which I think is pretty good.”
To say the least.
Lindley was shot four times – once in the right elbow, twice in the stomach, and once in the left arm – Nov. 7 at the Sandbar in Vail.
When the shots broke out that night, he was just getting ready to leave the bar after eating a taco and drinking a beer. He was going home to pack for a vacation to California to see his family – in fact, his first paid vacation ever.
“I heard a bunch of pops outside,” Lindley said. “I didn’t think I should go outside, and all of a sudden, here’s this guy, and he shoots me. Then he turns around and reloads, I guess. Then he turned back around, and I said, ‘Man, you shattered my elbow. What’d you do that for?’ And he shot me twice more.”
He didn’t know the guy who shot him. He’d never even seen him before – even though Lindley has lived in the valley on and off since 1986.
Richard “Rossi” Moreau, 63, who has lived in Vail since 1970, is charged with first-degree attempted murder for allegedly shooting Lindley. Three other people were shot at the Sandbar in West Vail that night. Gary Bruce Kitching, 70, a physician who lived in Carbondale, died after being shot three times.
Moreau faces trial on eight felony charges, including first-degree murder.
Lindley had noticed the shooter sitting about three bar stools down from him, he said. Before the time of the shooting, they had no interaction, he said.
The incident began as Moreau was being ushered out of the bar, prosecutors say. He shot two people outside the bar, and then re-entered, according to police.
“He came back in, and I was the first person he saw, and he was going to shoot the first person he saw, and that was me,” Lindley said. “I was just standing there. I just walked right into it. … I’ve thought, ‘Is there anything I could have done to avoid it?’ But I don’t see it.”
Lindley spent six weeks in Denver-area hospitals. The first 12 days, he was unconscious. He’s not sure exactly how many surgeries he’s had – two on his elbow, and probably three to five others. He suffered injuries to his abdomen, elbow, forearm, pancreas, diaphragm, spleen and lung.
Insurance and victims’ compensation from the state will pay for much of his substantial medical bills, but not everything. He’s also lost four months of wages from work.
The Sandbar is hosting a benefit for Lindley Saturday night. He said he is extremely thankful for all of the concern and caring he has received from the Vail community. Workers at the Vail Valley Medical Center generously donated some of their time off to help him. He got lots of cards when he was in the hospital.
“People I know and people I don’t know, all their good feelings and their prayers have been really helped me through this,” he said.
Life was going really well for Lindley when he was shot. He was in good shape and he had a great job.
“I guess the gods were getting bored with me, so they said, ‘Oh, let’s have Jim get shot a couple of times and see how he works it out,'” Lindley said with a laugh. “Yeah, I think about it – why me. But it had to be somebody. And if it wasn’t me, somebody else might have taken those bullets and probably wouldn’t have made it.”
He was very unlucky, yet also very lucky. His elbow seems to have shielded his heart from the bullet.
“I didn’t feel lucky, that’s for sure, when I was laying in the hospital,” he said. “But I’m lucky I didn’t get hit in the spine or the heart or something like that. I have a feeling that when this bullet hit my elbow, it was headed straight for my chest.”
Lindley said it was probably a breakdown of the system that allowed Moreau to allegedly shoot him. Moreau has a long criminal history in Vail, including several incidents which involved guns.
It is illegal in Colorado for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to possess a handgun. While Moreau pleaded guilty to felony illegal discharge of a firearm in 2001, he was given a four-year deferred sentence on the charge, court records show. If a defendant successfully completes the terms of the deferred sentence, it is not considered a conviction.
“To have an unstable guy running around with a .45 is inexcusable, especially when you’ve had the chance to evaluate and deal with him,” Lindley said. “And they basically did not do that, and that’s what I’m really more bitter about. Because this guy was going to go off sooner or later. And it just so happened that I was there.”
He hasn’t been following the court proceedings too closely so far, he said.
“I don’t know,” Lindley said. “I try not to think about it. I was very bitter at first, and still, he took a big chunk of my life. I’ll probably have scars. I’ve got a lot of scars, internal and external.”
Mostly, Lindley is trying to put the whole episode behind him. And, hopefully, he’ll be able to get a few ski days in before the season is done, he said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or email@example.com.