Rocky Mountain National Park Shooting Suspect Charged, Faces Up to 20 Years in Prison

A 29-year-old man is accused of shooting a National Park Service ranger in the incident on December 8.

Photo: Craig Zerbe / iStock via Getty

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Federal prosecutors this week filed charges against the man accused of shooting a National Park Service ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park during a gunfight last week, according to court records.

Daron Marquel Ellis, 29, faces charges of assault of a federal officer by use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

According to an affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Amy L. Howard, the incident began around 9:40 a.m. on December 8, when a Colorado State Patrol trooper stopped a 2016 Hyundai Sonata with Ellis and a female passenger in it for speeding. When the trooper ran the car’s plates, he discovered that both the vehicle and the license plates had been reported stolen separately. When the trooper returned to his car, Ellis and his passenger, an 18-year-old woman, allegedly fled the traffic stop; the trooper gave up the pursuit a quarter-mile down the road.

Half an hour later, Ellis allegedly crashed into a boulder while attempting to avoid a NPS vehicle that a ranger, identified in court documents as M.H., had used to block the park road just beyond the Fall River entrance. According to the complaint, M.H. approached the vehicle with his weapon drawn and ordered Ellis and the female passenger to get out; Ellis allegedly fired at the ranger with a semiautomatic pistol, hitting him in the ranger’s ballistic vest. M.H. responded by shooting and wounding Ellis. Video captured in the aftermath of the shooting by bystander Joseph Maynes shows a ranger telling a man lying on the ground not to talk and saying “you shot me.”

Emergency services transported both M.H. and Ellis to the hospital. M.H. suffered a 10-inch bruise from the bullet’s impact but was otherwise not wounded; Ellis is expected to survive his injuries, according to the affidavit. Police also took the car’s uninjured passenger into custody on an unrelated warrant.

According to Rocky Mountain National Park spokesperson Kyle Patterson, the park believes this is the first time a law enforcement officer has been involved in a shootout since its founding in 1915.