Thursday, January 8, 2009

Soldier dies after bar fight over Jimmy Buffett song

spacejace: you never know who is standing next to you or when you're gonna go...

By Tillie Fong, Rocky Mountain News

A soldier from Fort Bragg died this morning in Denver from injuries suffered from a bar fight in Steamboat Springs on Friday night over a Jimmy Buffett song.

Richard Lopez, 37, of Fayetteville, N.C., was pronounced dead at 4:16 a.m. today at Denver Health Medical Center. An autopsy by the Arapahoe County Coroner's office is scheduled for Tuesday.

"This is a very sad and serious case," said Capt. Joel Rae with Steamboat Springs police.

So far, no suspects have been arrested, although police have talked to two individuals involved in the fight.

"We know where they are and they have been interviewed," said Rae.

The case is being investigated as a homicide.

The incident occurred before 12:15 a.m. Friday when police were called to a fight between five people outside the Tap House.

"The initial disagreement was about music being played on the jukebox," said Rae, adding that it was a Jimmy Buffet song.

"Richard Lopez and two other individuals put on the song, but two other individuals did not agree with it."

It was not known which Jimmy Buffett song was being played at the time, but the fight was taken outside the bar.

By the time officers arrived on scene, the fight was over and Lopez was on the ground at Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street.

Two of Lopez's friends, who were not identified by police but are from Steamboat Springs, were also injured in the fight.

Lopez was initially taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, but later airlifted to Denver Health Medical Center.

Lopez's friends, identified by the Steamboat Pilot as Timothy Mottlau of Norfolk, Va., and Wesley Mottlau, of Fayetteville, N.C., were taken to the hospital with cuts and bruises.

Calls to the Mottlau's home in Steamboat Springs were not returned today.

Rae said that all three were on leave from the military - Lopez and one of his friends were with the Army, while the other friend was in the Navy.

A call to Fort Bragg indicated that Lopez was part of a special forces unit. More details were not available about his service.

Rae said the case is still under investigation.

"Somebody died," he said. "We're taking this very seriously."

While he said barfights were not uncommon in the town, it was unusual that a person died in a fight not involving any weapons.

"This is the first time that a physical fight has resulted in a loss of life from the use of hands and fists," he said.

"It's a shame that it had to happen."

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