A disgruntled man armed with guns and bombs allegedly stormed into a dinner party Sunday at a Rincon Valley home searching for his estranged wife, killing a neighbor who tried to stop him and wounding two others, including a 4-year-old boy.
Timothy Gillaspie, 43, the neighbor who met the gunman at the front door, was a “true hero” who tried to save others, Santa Rosa police Lt. John Cregan said.
The suspected gunman, Walter Ross, 65, of Colorado, was armed with two handguns and a bag of five homemade explosive devices as he approached his son’s house on Garfield Park Avenue around 8 p.m. Sunday, police said.
When Gillaspie heard a confrontation at the door, he got up from the table and attempted to prevent Ross from entering the home, Cregan said. Gillaspie was shot multiple times and killed near the doorway.
Gillaspie, who was at the dinner with his wife, Katrina, and two sons — Shane, 11, and Connor, 14 — had never met Ross before Sunday.
He was a “100 percent innocent victim,” Cregan said.
“This is truly an unusual and horrific event for our community in Santa Rosa,” he added. “It’s time for us to come together as a community and support Mr. Gillaspie’s family and his two young children.”
Friends described Gillaspie as a wonderful father, husband and beloved coach who volunteered his time with the Rincon Valley Little League, North Bay CYO Basketball and Redwood PAL Golden Bears youth football.
“There’s just not enough good adjectives to describe what an amazing man he was,” said friend Jeremy De La Torre. “It didn’t surprise me to finally hear what happened, because that’s who Tim was — if there was danger and a threat to his family and friends, he would be going toward the danger.”
When Santa Rosa police and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s SWAT team arrived at the home, they found Gillaspie dead on the floor and Ross injured with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Ross was taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.
Gillaspie’s wife and two boys were uninjured.
Nine neighbors had gathered for dinner Sunday night at the home in the quiet, family neighborhood in northeast Santa Rosa when Ross barged in. Police said he was looking for his soon-to-be ex-wife, who lived at the home but wasn’t there.
One woman hid in the bathroom and called 911 as the remainder of the group — four children and three adults — fled through a garage side door and the backyard.
Ross shot his 41-year-old son twice in the legs and a bullet grazed his 4-year-old grandson across the head as they ran, police said. Both were taken to a local hospital Sunday night and released Monday.
“We believe that (Ross) believed his estranged wife was in the residence and that he was there to ultimately kill her,” Cregan said.
Ross and his wife were estranged for about two years, and their divorce was supposed to be finalized this month, Cregan said. Animosity existed between the two over alimony payments, he said.
Police during a news conference Monday afternoon said they hadn’t talked to Ross, because of his condition.