Days before her death, Cara Russell told a friend she was afraid of her husband

Mickey Russell had recently been placed on a mental health hold, and he was making disturbing statements.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The victim of the shooting yesterday in LoDo was Cara Russell, 52, as confirmed by Chief Jimmy Tidwell of the Buena Vista Police Department.

Russell died this morning. The gunman was her 58-year-old estranged husband, according to the Denver Police Department. He died on the scene, at the Alliance Center, of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Cara Russell had filed to divorce Mickey Russell, according to court records. She had grown especially concerned by his behavior in the week prior to the shooting, according to Jill Van Deel, a longtime friend of the victim.

Mickey Russell had recently been placed on a mental health hold for evaluation, according to Denver police, and had made statements that concerned Van Deel. He had “made threats about flying an airplane into a building,” Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze told the Denver Post.

The gunman was an aviation instructor, and Van Deel is the manager of the Central Colorado Regional Airport. The airport had banned him from its premises within the last week, Van Deel said, due to his perceived instability.

Cara Russell became increasingly worried for her safety in the days before the shooting.

“She was concerned that he was angry due to the fact that he had been issued a ‘no trespass’ – for her safety, and for more my safety,” Van Deel said. “She was kind of forewarning me.”

On Tuesday morning, Van Deel drove to the place where she thought Mickey Russell was staying.

“And come to find out he was on his way,” she said. At around 2:42 p.m., he confronted Cara Russell on the second floor of the Alliance Center, where she had recently started working as the executive director of Colorado Association for Recycling.

After a brief confrontation, he shot her multiple times with a handgun, according to Denver police. Police identified between 100 and 120 witnesses, but Russell worked alone in the CAFR office. She was one of two full-time employees, according to the organization’s board president, Juri Freeman.

“She was a very intelligent and bright woman,” Van Deel said.

Russell also was active in civic life. She was the mayor of Buena Vista, Colorado, for about six years, and she also had been the director of the Leadville/Lake County Chamber of Commerce, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Other positions included executive directorships of Buena Vista Heritage and the Chaffee People’s Clinic. She and Mickey Russell together founded SkyArk, a nonprofit that transports animals.

“She cared about animals very deeply,” Van Deel said. They had put the nonprofit on hiatus for some years while their son was treated for brain cancer, according to a Facebook post apparently written by Mickey Russell.

“Well he is doing great now and in college, so Cara and I now have the time to get SkyArk up and going again,” read the December 2015 posting.

Cara Russell was a graduate of Texas Christian University, the University of North Texas and Arvada West High School.

“I am passionate about the power of one person to make a difference,” her Twitter profile stated.

Tidwell, the police chief, said Cara Russell had done just that in Buena Vista.

“Cara was an awesome lady. She was a good friend, she was a good mayor. Her best trait: She was a really good listener,” Tidwell said. “She was a really special lady, and she will be missed.”

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