Wal-Mart worker slain by gunman | AspenTimes.com

Wal-Mart worker slain by gunman

Greg Masse
Special to The Aspen Times

The suspect in the shooting death of an employee at the Glenwood Springs Wal-Mart remained on the loose Monday.

Glenwood resident Tom Lubchenco, a well-known local artist and employee of Wal-Mart, was killed while at work Sunday night.

Glenwood Springs police have no suspects in the killing and released little information.

Another unidentified worker at the store suffered injuries when he was hit in the head with a shovel by the suspect.

The store was closed Monday while authorities investigated the crime.

According to Phil Riley, an employee who was inside Wal-Mart at the time of the shooting, Lubchenco was shot in an upstairs area of the store around 11:30 Sunday night. The area is located up a set of stairs from the lay-a-way area on the east side of the store.

“He was pretty much my best friend at work,” Riley said. “He was a great guy to work with.”

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson described the suspect as a white male, 5-foot-10 with a thin build, wearing a black baseball cap and a black jacket at the time of the shooting.

Wilson declined to release specific details about the shooting itself.

After their arrival, police conducted a search of the store property and adjacent hillside. They tried to track the suspect using a police dog and infrared night-vision devices, but they couldn’t find the suspect.

Riley said the suspect may have been wearing a ski mask while the crimes were committed.

“I have a large team of investigators who have been working on the case for the last 20 hours,” Wilson said.

Riley said shelf stockers and cleaning crew personnel were inside the store when the shooting took place.

“I was in the middle of it,” he said. “It was a mess.”

Riley guessed that the suspect could have hidden somewhere in the store while it was still open, coming out of hiding sometime after it closed at 9 p.m.

“It seems like the person who did this was hiding in the attic where we store shelving,” Riley said.

Riley said Lubchenco’s wife, Ruth, confronted the robber. He seized her and took her upstairs.

“His wife confronted the person, I think he grabbed her at that point. Then Tom went upstairs, then he let her go and tied him up,” he said.

After the shooting, as the suspect was leaving the store, he reportedly hit one of the floor workers on the head with a shovel.

“He pointed the gun at him, then he went into the garden center and grabbed a shovel,” Riley said.

Riley couldn’t figure out the suspect’s motive.

“When the store closes, the money goes into a safe. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do, steal a sleeping bag? It’s pretty strange,” he said.

The shooter next ran to the north side of the store.

“Various people were running around,” Riley said.

Police arrived at Wal-Mart just after 11:30 p.m. and ordered everyone to get on the floor, Riley said.

“Then they came in with every kind of weapon you could imagine,” Riley said. “When the EMTs and fire department came, they took [the injured worker] out on a gurney. Because they didn’t bring Tom out, the realization came over everybody that he was deceased.”

The remaining workers were rounded up by police and ordered into the electronics department. They were finally released from the store around 2 a.m.

“This is big-city stuff. This is why I moved here from L.A. – to get away from this kind of stuff,” Riley said.

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