BUENA VISTA, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities say a gunman came to Denver from Buena Vista and shot and killed his estranged wife before taking his own life had become mentally unstable.

The Chaffee County sheriff told CBS4 there were concerns the gunman wanted to rent a plane and fly it into the woman’s office building in LoDo.

Central Colorado Regional Airport manager Jill Van Dell told CBS4’s Matt Kroschel Cara Russell called her on the phone just days before her death to warn Van Dell her estranged husband, Mickey Russell, was very angry with the airport manager.

Mickey and Cara Russell (credit: CBS)

Mickey and Cara Russell (credit: CBS)

Van Dell confirmed she was the one who asked police for the protective order banning Mickey Russell, 58, from the airport. Staff worried he may try to use an airplane to cause harm. He was a pilot and flight instructor at the Central Colorado Regional Airport.

Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze says threats were made to fly a plane into a building. The Federal Aviation Administration was asked to take away Mickey Russell’s pilot license. It’s not clear if that was completed.

CBS4 has learned Mickey Russell lived just outside the airport fences in an old school bus and had made several attempts to gain access into the airport grounds in the weeks leading up to the attack in Denver.

Mickey Russell (credit: CBS)

Mickey Russell (credit: CBS)

The Russells were well-known in Leadville and Buena Vista, where Cara Russell, 52, once served as mayor. She filed for divorce from Mickey Russell in April. She was the executive director the Colorado Association for Recycling, which has an office in the Alliance Center where she was shot.

Leadville resident Betty Benson knew the Russells for the last decade.

“It’s totally overwhelming that people who know each other that well and have been married … could be that cruel. I can’t wrap my head around it,” Benson said. “And he’s chasing her with a gun through the building … oh my God I can’t imagine the fear that she must have been feeling at that point.”

CBS4's Matt Kroschel interviews Buena Vista Sheriff Jimmy Tidwell (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Matt Kroschel interviews Buena Vista Sheriff Jimmy Tidwell (credit: CBS)

In Buena Vista, longtime Chief of Police Jimmy Tidwell is also stunned.

“I’m like everyone else … I’m shocked,” Tidwell said. “Anytime you have a domestic violence issue it’s a tragedy when it ends like this. It’s horrible.”

Friends of the Russells told CBS4 that in the weeks before the shooting Mickey Russell, a family man they knew well, changed. They say he talked about taking his own life.


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