WASHINGTON -- Last Saturday, the Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, a luxury getaway known for hosting corporate retreats and family vacations 90 miles southwest of Dallas, became the scene of a double homicide. Retired Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and a friend, Chad Littlefield, were fatally shot at the resort's gun range, allegedly by Eddie Ray Routh, a reportedly emotionally troubled veteran Kyle was trying to help.
In the context of the Newtown, Conn., massacre and the renewed debate over gun control, the shooting death of Kyle made national headlines. But it wasn't the first time Rough Creek has seen tragedy at its gun range.
The upscale resort is facing a civil lawsuit over a 2009 incident that blew off the thumb of a 17-year-old boy, William Travis Long.
According to the civil suit complaint filed in a local Texas court, Long and his brother Stephen were taken to the range by a resort staffer on Aug. 3, 2009. The staffer provided Long with a 12-gauge shotgun and shells. After the teenager placed a shell in the bottom barrel, aimed and pulled the trigger, "the shotgun exploded, blowing William's left thumb off and permanently and severely injuring his left hand and thumb," the complaint states.
Long's attorney, Bill Zook, told HuffPost that the explosion tore through skin and ligament, blowing away the entire thumb except for the bone. Even after several reconstructive surgeries, Long still cannot close his left thumb to his hand.
Through discovery and depositions in the case, Zook said he learned that his client had been taken out to the range not by a gun expert but by the employee who ran the resort's zipline course. Zook said Long had next-to-no experience in shooting.
The lawyer contends that the resort's employee never inspected the shotgun barrels. If the employee had, he would have seen the 20-gauge shells erroneously jammed into the shotgun, Zook argues. According to Zook, the force of firing an extra shell caused the explosion.
"The guns and ammo were in control of Rough Creek Lodge all the way up until the time my client pulled trigger," Zook said. He argued that the lodge should have cleaned the guns prior to the day's shooting.
Zook has closely followed this month's tragedy. "I found it somewhat odd that they were down there by themselves in an isolated area and that there was nobody there around them," he said.
Paul Boccafogli, the resort's general manager, refused to answer questions about the lawsuit or last week's double homicide. "Out of respect for Chris's and Chad's family who have suffered such a tragic loss and due to Law Enforcement's ongoing criminal investigation, we have no comment at this time," he wrote via email. Boccafogli added that the Long case was still an "on-going investigation" and therefore he could not comment.
The Long case is set to go to trial on April 1.
"It's a highfalutin' place," Zook said. "It seems to be run OK from the outside. But you never know unless you are an insider."