Two people are dead after a lift operator at Eldora Mountain Resort opened fire this morning on fellow employees and a Boulder County sheriff's deputy, law enforcement officials and witnesses said.
The incident began at 7:30 a.m. when the suspect walked into a building where employees gather and fired a shot into the ceiling, sheriff's Cmdr. Phil West said. The suspect yelled something about religion to the employees and fatally shot Eldora General Manager Brian Mahon, Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
The suspect was chased down by a sheriff's deputy and killed in a fire fight a few miles away near Mile Marker 25 of the Peak-to-Peak Highway, south of Nederland, Pelle said.
Mahon, 49, had been an Eldora manager since 1991 and leaves behind a wife and two children, Pelle said.
Authorities have not released the name of the shooter.
Lisa Keeter, the deputy's girlfriend, told the Camera that a bullet struck Deputy John Seifert's patrol car, but did not strike him. However, she said, a shard of glass hit Seifert in the eye.
The deputy, who killed the suspect, was treated and released from Boulder Community Hospital, West said. After a brief chase, the suspect stopped his car and opened fire on the deputy's patrol car. The deputy exited his car and returned fire, striking the suspect at least once, West said. The suspect died at the scene.
Seifert, a 46-year-old firearms instructor with the Sheriff's Office, was responding to the shooting at the resort's "pump house," Keeter said.
The trouble apparently started shortly before 7 a.m. in Nederland.
Cynthia Davis, 35, awakened to a pounding on her front door about 6:50 a.m. When she opened the door, Davis was met by a tall, slender man in his early 20s with a pistol strapped to his right thigh. He was dressed entirely in black.
The man wanted to know where Davis' neighbors -- who recently moved away -- were. Davis said the man appeared "very agitated and angry" when she told him she didn't know. Her former neighbors worked at the ski area before moving out of town, recently.
"I thought he was a cop," she said.
A short time later, the gunman entered a room in the Eldora pump house where about 20 employees were preparing for the day. He asked people their religious beliefs, then opened fire.
Matthew Koehorst, a 21-year-old Eldora employee, said the manager who died was "just unlucky - a complete fluke."
"It could've been me next," he said. "I was next in line. ... That was the most terrifying experience of my life; I'm not gonna go through that again."
Eldora Mountain Resort officials closed the mountain to skiers Tuesday, but will re-open Wednesday. A message on Eldora's Web site said: "Having spent the day in shock, the employees of Eldora have decided the best thing to do to memorialize Brian is to open the ski area tomorrow with the slopes groomed 'Brian' perfect."
A memorial fund has been set up in Mahon’s name at the Mutual of Omaha Bank in Nederland, Eldora officials said.
Peter Rousseau, a skier from North Boulder who arrived at the Eldora Mountain Resort around 7:15 this morning, said he saw two strange events on his way to the mountain. As he drove from Nederland to Eldora, he saw a gray sedan driving at excessive speeds down the mountain.
Then, about 10 minutes later, as Rousseau unloaded his ski gear in the resort parking lot, he said ski patrol vehicles blocked the exits to the lot. Then, Rousseau said, a tan sedan with tinted windows evaded authorities and plowed through a snow bank to speed back down Eldora Road away from the resort.
"The guy was flying," Rousseau said. "I didn't know what was going on at the time."
Rousseau said he saw ski patrol medics respond to the pumphouse with IV bags. Resort officials then closed the lodge and ordered employees and early-arriving skiers and snowboarders to gather in the resort's bar.
"There were people crying in the bar," Rousseau said. "One guy collapsed in tears."
The county Bomb Squad was called out to the Peak-to-Peak Highway scene as a precautionary measure, Pelle said. The squad investigated a backpack in the suspect's back seat, but found no bombs.