Accused shooter arrested before
Several days before a 54-year-old Arizona man was arrested for allegedly using a Dirty Harry-style revolver to fire at several people on a Gateway road July 30, the same man was taken into custody in the area for a mental health issue, according to recently unsealed court documents.
The arrest affidavit for Rick Joe Whited, who has since been charged with multiple counts of attempted first-degree murder, details witnesses’ and victims’ reports about the alleged shooting spree that ended without injuries when Whited was cornered by law enforcement with the help of security guards from the Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa.
A 63-year-old Grand Junction man told Mesa County sheriff’s deputies that he was driving on Colorado Highway 141 about 100 yards north of the Gateway Canyons General Store in the afternoon July 30 when he saw Whited’s truck off on the road’s shoulder.
The man said he saw the truck’s driver pull out a “shiny long-barrel revolver.” He described seeing the man — believed to be Whited — aim the gun at the road through his truck before getting out and pointing the weapon at the 63-year-old’s own vehicle.
“The male yelled for (the 63-year-old) to stop, and then (the 63-year-old) heard two rounds shot at his vehicle,” the affidavit said. “(He) said the male then kneeled down, aimed at (his) truck again and shot one more round.”
A husband and wife driving behind the older man said the shooter also fired at their vehicle multiple times.
The couple and several other people convened at the Gateway Canyons General Store, where a store employee called security officers at the nearby resort, asking for help.
Two security officers — one a 67-year-old man with more than 30 years of law enforcement experience — responded to the store, where they briefly spoke to the people who had been shot at before driving to the intersection of Highway 141 and Foy Road, where Whited’s white Chevrolet truck was parked.
The 34-year-old security guard recognized Whited from an incident several days earlier, on July 25, the report said. In the earlier incident, a Mesa County sheriff’s deputy identified Whited while taking him into custody on a mental health hold.
Whited’s arrest affidavit didn’t describe the earlier incident. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office declined to release a report about the incident, citing laws protecting mental health records.
The affidavit describes an odd interaction a 65-year-old Gateway man reported having with Whited as the shooting incident was unfolding, while security officers approached with their guns drawn. The man said he was driving south on the highway in his RV when he noticed a gas can sitting in the middle of the road.
“(The Gateway man) said he got out of his RV and came into contact with a smaller, balding white male, who asked if (he) would move the male’s gas can,” the affidavit said.
The 65-year-old said he told the other man. “Hell, no.”
“(He) said he got back into his RV and when he looked back towards the male, he saw the male had a ‘stainless .44 Mag Dirty Harry-style’ revolver gun pointed (at him),” the report said.
When the two security guards approached the area, they said initially “Whited was on the ground in the road looking as if he was praying,” the affidavit said.
The younger security guard had a 9 mm handgun, while the law enforcement veteran wielded an AR-15 rifle. Whited allegedly ignored the guards’ orders to get on the ground, and instead opened fire, the report said. The guards described Whited running around a gas station and behind a large tree, while continuing to shoot toward them.
“(The younger guard) stated they continued to tell Mr. Whited to get on the ground using the loud speaker in his vehicle, but Mr. Whited was yelling and cursing and did not comply,” the report said.
The gun battle lasted for 15 to 20 minutes before dispatchers asked the guards to back away.
“(The younger guard) stated he and (the other guard) eventually lost sight of Mr. Whited, but learned he was later arrested near the creek by Mesa County Sheriff’s Office deputies,” the report said.
After Whited’s arrest, a bag was found nearby containing a .44 Magnum revolver.
It’s not clear what motivated the alleged attack. Whited was ordered held in lieu of a $1 million bond.
On Monday, he was formally charged with 16 felonies, including seven counts of attempted first-degree murder, one for each person he allegedly shot at, and another nine counts of menacing.
Additionally Whited was charged with a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.
Whited is due back in court Sept. 5 before Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison.