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."
Also on HuffPost:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."