ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - Motel 6 guests have a reasonable expectation that they won't be shot after they check in - but not in Albuquerque, two former CNN reporters say in court.
Charles "Chuck" de Caro was wounded in his room in a June 30 shootout with a robber at the Motel 6 on Iliff Road near I-40, as his terrified wife watched from the bed. De Caro was shot twice in the stomach and in the leg. He killed the robber, and his wife held towels to his bleeding stomach as they waited for police and an ambulance.
De Caro, a former member of the 20th Special Forces Group Airborne division of the U.S. Army, had been a correspondent for CNN. His wife, Lynne Russell, had been a news anchor. They sued Motel 6 Operating L.P. and affiliates, the motel manager, a security company and one of its employees, on Tuesday in Bernalillo County Court.
The couple were driving to California with their dog and stopped in Albuquerque, where Russell had grown up, to see friends and stay overnight. The Motel 6 advertises itself as "safe, clean, and pet-friendly" - exactly what they wanted - the couple say.
Actually, Albuquerque police had been called to the motel at least 821 times to investigate "burglaries, auto-thefts, rapes, prostitution, petty theft, drugs, and other types of criminal and suspicious activity" in the previous six years.
"(A)t least 166" of these police calls to the motel came this year, they say, and the defendants had every reason to know the motel was not safe place, and that its unmonitored security cameras and security staff were insufficient.
At 11 p.m., "around the same time Lynne and Chuck were settling into their room, Skyy Barrs and Tomorio Walton also arrived at the Motel 6 with two unidentified companions," the complaint states. "Like so many criminals before them, Barrs, Walton, and their companions came to Motel 6 with the intent to 'hit a lick' - slang for committing robberies. They had come to the Motel 6 to rob unsuspecting guests."
A security camera recorded the robbers parking by a Dumpster at 11:21 p.m., and showed Walton's gun "protruding from his waistband," according to the complaint. But "No one at Motel 6 was paying attention."
Walton saw Lynne leave her room at 11:26 p.m. - she was getting food for the dog - and he chose her as a victim because "she is an older American," the complaint states.
It continues: "At 11:27 p.m., security cameras recorded Mr. Walton going to the hallway next to the motel room to wait for Lynne to return from her car. The security footage shows Mr. Walton playing with his cell phone while waiting for Lynne to return. Again, no one at Motel 6 was paying attention, including the security guard who was himself on his cell phone at this time."
The camera showed Lynne returning to her room at 11:28, and "If anyone had been monitoring the cameras, it would have been obvious that the gun-carrying Mr. Walton was stalking Lynne," the complaint states.
The camera showed Russell set down the bag of dog food and unlock the door. Walton then shoved a gun into her stomach, shoved her into the room and onto the bed, and closed the door.
De Caro came out of the shower to see Walton holding his wife at gunpoint, then wave his gun back and forth between them. De Caro worked his way to the bedside table, "on which the couple's two handguns rested," and Lynne "surreptitiously placed one of those guns in her purse and handed it to Chuck."
They tried to talk to Walton to calm him down, and said they would give him all their money. Walton, however, demanded Russell's briefcase, then took it "and opened fire."
De Caro returned fire, seven times. Both he and Walton were shot.
Motel 6 video showed Walton run from the room at 11:35, blood on his shirt.
Russell called 911 and tried to keep her husband alive. He underwent emergency surgery, and follow-up surgeries for organ damage, blood clots and other complications. Both continue to suffer post-traumatic stress.
They seek lost income, and punitive damages for negligence, unfair trade, emotional distress and loss of consortium.
They are represented by Randi McGinn, with McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya & Love in Albuquerque, and Michael Maggiano with Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi in Fort Lee, N.J.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that De Caro is a former Marine.