Guests shocked after shooting at White River Junction hotel

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 10-08-2022 4:40 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Rock Fortin and Mike Lamotte traveled up to the Upper Valley from Massachusetts on Thursday evening, two members of a six-man crew hired to lay down an artificial turf athletic field the next day at Cardigan Mountain School.

The two co-workers had woken up early Friday morning in the hotel room they were sharing at the Comfort Inn in White River Junction when Lamotte told Fortin he was heading out to get breakfast, Fortin related to the Valley News a few hours later.

What happened next could have turned into an even greater tragedy were it not for the quick and calm response of Fortin and a third co-worker, Josh Buczynski, who is trained as the work crew’s emergency medical technician.

Lamotte left the room and “about 30 seconds later I heard a ‘pop’ and a shout and groaning sound,” Fortin said outside the hotel after police reported they had responded to a 6:30 a.m. call of an adult male who had been shot and gravely injured at the hotel.

Fortin said when he heard the disturbance outside the door, he ran out into the hallway to find out what was going on and found his co-worker and friend Lamotte, a father of three young children, lying facedown near the elevator “in a pool of blood.”

Fortin immediately called the front desk and 911 while his colleague, Buczynski, turned over Lamotte’s body and used towels to press the wound and stanch the profuse bleeding, Buczynski recounted.

With Lamotte struggling to speak and gasping for breath, Fortin said he could just barely hear him speak: “Someone shot me in the face. I can’t breathe.”

As he heard sirens approaching, Buczynski locked his arms under Lamotte’s armpits and lifted his co-worker up from behind and carried him to the elevator. When the elevator doors opened four floors below Buczynski said paramedics had already arrived in the hotel lobby.

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After the medics administered emergency aid, Lamotte was taken by ambulance to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where he was treated for “life-threatening injuries,” Hartford police said in a news release later that day.

On Friday morning, Hartford police said they had a suspect, whom they did not identify, behind the shooting in custody, which they described as an “isolated incident” presenting no further risk to the public.

Neither Fortin nor Buczynski said they had seen Lamotte’s assailant commit the shooting “but after the fact we found out that numerous guests at the hotel had seen this guy walking around with the gun at the hotel,” Fortin said on Friday, standing next to his truck in the hotel parking lot after being interviewed by members of Vermont State Police major crime unit.

“There was a guy at the front desk and he was angry,” Fortin said he observed. “He was yelling at the woman at the front desk saying: ‘I told you I seen a guy with a gun. You guys did nothing.’ ”

Dick Mackay, owner of the Comfort Inn, did not return messages for comment.

Friday’s shooting at the Comfort Inn was the second to occur this week in the Upper Valley and the second to occur this year at a White River Junction hotel.

On Wednesday, three teenagers were arrested and are held without bail on charges of shooting another teenager during a robbery attempt in the parking lot of Walmart in Claremont. And in April, a 22-year-old Quechee man who was shot in the face at the Super 8 Motel in an incident that was described at the time as involving people acquainted with each other.

Buczynski said he got a glimpse of the suspect in the hotel parking lot while he was being “marched off to an open car” by police and described him a “young-looking millennial, probably in his 20s, he had long hair and a silver necklace around his neck.”

Buczynski said he had spoken with another hotel guest, a woman from France who was outside walking her dog in the morning and who said she, too, had encountered the suspect with a gun.

“He put the gun on the ground so he could pet her dog,” Buczynski said the woman told him.

The Friday morning shooting interrupted the travel plans of some of the guests staying at the hotel.

Brandy Eichner, from Abilene, Texas, had booked into the Comfort Inn on Thursday to visit her son, a student at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, who plans to propose to his girlfriend this weekend.

Eichner said she was staying in room 416, next door to the fourth-floor elevator where Lamotte was shot. She said she did not hear the gunfire but when she emerged at 8:30 a.m., she found the hallway filled with officers and bloody towels on the floor.

“I had to crawl under the police tape to get out and walk down the side stairs” because the elevator was shut down, Eichner said, noting that there were “lots of elderly people here.”

“They’re a little shaken up,” she said of the other guests.

Eichner said her plans called for her to stay the weekend at the Comfort Inn but when she called her son to tell him what had happened, he wasn’t hearing of it.

“He’s like, ‘You’re out of there,’ ” Eichner said, and he insisted his mother stay with him at his place in Sunapee.

“The world has gone mad,” Eichner said of the violent scene that greeted her that morning.

Buczynski said he was speaking all morning with Lamotte’s mother and sister, who were on the way to DHMC.

Fortin said he has visited the Upper Valley several times to install artificial turf field at Dartmouth College and had never encountered any problems before.

He attributed what happened to his colleague and friend as a “random act” that defied an immediate explanation.

“I think Mike just pushed the button to go down the elevator and he just ran into the wrong person at the wrong time,” Fortin said. “It just seems it’s way too common in our society today. It’s scary. You watch it on the news and there’s always a little distance between you and the violence. But here it is at your doorstep.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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