Thompson died at his “fortified compound” known as “Owl Farm” in Woody Creek, Colorado, at 5:42 p.m. on February 20, 2005, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The fatal gunshot was fired from a Smith & Wesson Model 645 handgun.
Thompson’s son (Juan), daughter-in-law (Jennifer) and grandson (Will) were visiting for the weekend at the time of his suicide. Will and Jennifer were in the adjacent room when they heard the gunshot. Mistaking the shot for the sound of a book falling, they continued with their activities for a few minutes before checking on him. The police report concerning his death stated that in a typewriter in front of Thompson, they found “a piece of paper carrying the date ‘Feb 22 ‘05’ and the single word ‘counselor’.”
They reported to the press that they do not believe his suicide was out of desperation, but was a premeditated act resulting from Thompson’s many painful and chronic medical conditions, which included a hip replacement. Thompson’s wife, Anita Thompson, who was at The Aspen Club at the time of her husband’s death, was on the phone with him as he cocked the gun. According to the Aspen Daily News, before setting the receiver on the counter, he asked her to come home to help him write his ESPN column . Mistaking the sound of the cocking of the gun for the sound of his typewriter keys, she hung up as he fired the gun. Juan Thompson found his father’s body after hearing the gunshot. According to police reports and Anita Thompson’s cell phone records, he called the sheriff a half hour later. Juan Thompson then walked outside the Woody Creek home and fired three shotgun blasts into the air as police were driving to the scene.
“Juan told me he had shot a shotgun into the air to mark the passing of his father,” Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff John Armstrong said in his report.
What Doug Brinkley describes as a suicide note written by Thompson to his wife, Anita Thompson, was later published by Rolling Stone in the September issue #983. Titled “Football Season Is Over”, it read:
“No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your (old) age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”
Artist and friend Ralph Steadman wrote:
“…He told me 25 years ago that he would feel real trapped if he didn’t know that he could commit suicide at any moment. I don’t know if that is brave or stupid or what, but it was inevitable. I think that the truth of what rings through all his writing is that he meant what he said. If that is entertainment to you, well, that’s OK. If you think that it enlightened you, well, that’s even better. If you wonder if he’s gone to Heaven or Hell, rest assured he will check out them both, find out which one Richard Milhous Nixon went to — and go there. He could never stand being bored. But there must be Football too — and Peacocks…(via Wikipedia)
out of all the celebrity deaths I’ve been affected by, his hit me harder than nearly every other one. and why should it have? as he was the one who ended his life of his own accord. still, though, my early teen years were nothing short of hell, and in his writing I found solace. he gave me comfort and escape when neither were a reality. for these reasons, I will be eternally grateful and hold a special place for him in my twisted little heart.