Sheriff: Denver shooter spoke of flying plane into building
A man who killed his estranged wife and himself at a busy downtown Denver office building had become increasingly mentally unstable and was banned from a local airport
By Sadie Gurman
DENVER — A man who killed his estranged wife and himself at a busy downtown Denver office building had become increasingly mentally unstable and was banned from a local airport after he threatened to fly a plane into a building, authorities said Wednesday.
The woman, the former mayor of the small resort town of Buena Vista, filed for divorce in April, and her husband had spoken about the possibility of violence against her, Denver police Cmdr. Ron Saunier said.
The Tuesday afternoon shooting sent panicked office workers scrambling to escape the Alliance Center, a building that houses several environmental organizations and provides shared workspaces. Other downtown buildings were locked down, and people were warned to stay away from the area, which is steps from a pedestrian mall in the trendy LoDo neighborhood near a major transit hub and about four blocks from Coors Field.
The gunman, identified Wednesday as 58-year-old Mickey Russell, shot himself and was dead before police arrived.
Authorities were trying to verify that he been detained on a 72-hour mental health hold at a hospital in the last two weeks, Saundier said.
Investigators also trying to determine how he obtained the handgun.
The victim, 52-year-old Cara Russell, was the executive director the Colorado Association for Recycling, one of several non-profit organizations in the building. She was critically injured and underwent surgery. She died Wednesday morning at a Denver hospital.
Mickey Russell had traveled more than 120 miles northeast from Buena Vista, where he had been banned from the local airport "based on comments he had made," Saunier said.
"There had been some ramblings and some talks of him doing this," the commander said. "He was becoming more and more mentally unstable."
Saunier did not elaborate on what was said or to whom.
Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze said Mickey Russell was banned from the airport because he made threats about flying an airplane into a building. Buena Vista Police Chief Jimmy Tidwell said officers served a notice of the airport ban to Mickey Russell, a pilot, who signed it without protest.
Tidwell said Cara Russell stopped by his office about 10 days ago to let him know she was moving to Denver for a new job and tell him how much she enjoyed working with him as the town's mayor. She knew all the officers on a first-name basis and, as the town's leader, would always listen carefully and consider her words before responding, he said.
Tidwell said he feels both sadness at the loss of Cara Russell and anger toward her husband.
"These domestic violence things are just such a waste of humanity," he said.
The shooting drew a heavy police presence to the heart of downtown Denver. Officers cleared the building floor by floor and found no other threat. They interviewed 100 witnesses and learned Mickey Russell came in through a public entrance and chased the woman for a moment before opening fire.
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