ASPEN, Colorado (AP) -- While Hunter S. Thompson's suicide shocked many in his out-of-the-way neighborhood, one of his closest friends said Monday the writer had been in a lot of pain after a broken leg and hip surgery.
"I wasn't surprised," said George Stranahan, a former owner of the Woody Creek Tavern, one of Thompson's favorite hangouts. "I never expected Hunter to die in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of him."
Thompson died in his home Sunday evening from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Pitkin County Coroner Dr. J. Steve Ayers said Monday.
Authorities refused to say whether a note was found. Thompson's body was found by his adult son, Juan, later Sunday evening.
Investigators recovered the weapon, a .45-caliber handgun.
Neighbors in Thompson's Woody Creek neighborhood said a broken leg had kept him from getting out as often as in the past, including to the tavern.
But Shep Harris, who now owns the tavern, said Thompson would sometimes slip in for a drink and a smoke if no one else was there.
Patrons normally are not allowed to light up because the tavern does not have a separate smoking area, but if Thompson were the only customer, he got a waiver.
"We called it the Hunter Rule," Harris said.
Mike Cleverly, a neighbor and longtime friend, spent Friday night watching a basketball game on TV with Thompson. He said Thompson was clearly hobbled by the broken leg. "Medically speaking, he's had a rotten year," he said.
But he added that "he's the last person in the world I would have expected to kill himself. I would have been less surprised if he had shot me."
Thompson was legendary for his love of firearms.
"He had a thing about guns," said Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, an acquaintance and a former editor of the Aspen Times. "I was always very worried he was going to shoot someone."
He did, at least once. In 2000, he accidentally slightly wounded his assistant trying to chase a bear off his property.
Hayes said she was present when a drunken Thompson fired three shots into a copy of one of his books and gave it to a friend, saying, "This is your autographed copy."
Despite the gunfire and the wild, drug-addled image he projected in his writing, Thompson was on good terms with the sheriff's department and was friends with Sheriff Bob Braudis and with DiSalvo, the sheriff's director of investigations.
"I would definitely call him a friend," DiSalvo said. "This was not the way I expected Hunter to die."