A man has been formally charged after allegedly shooting at a ranger near the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park on Dec. 8.
On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced that the suspect, identified as 29-year-old Daron Marquel Ellis, had been charged with assault on a federal officer by use of a deadly weapon.
Ellis appeared in federal court on Monday and was advised of the charge.
He faces a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000.
According to an arrest affidavit, around 10:15 a.m. on Dec. 8, Ellis shot at Ranger M.H., a National Park Service employee, near US Highway 34 just yards within the Rocky Mountain National Park boundary. Ellis allegedly shot multiple rounds at the ranger, who was wearing body armor and returned fire, striking Ellis.
Both Ellis and the ranger were transported to a hospital. The ranger was released and Ellis is expected to survive his injuries, the affidavit reads. The ranger had an "impact wound" that developed into a bruise about 10 inches in diameter, the affidavit reads.
Prior to the shooting, the ranger attempted to stop Ellis, who was driving a red 2016 Hyundai Sonata. Just 30 minutes before this, a Colorado State Patrol trooper had stopped Ellis for speeding, the affidavit reads.
During the stop with the trooper, CSP ran a National Crime Information Center scan and revealed that the vehicle and license plates had been stolen separately, the affidavit reads. Ellis stepped out of the vehicle without being asked and the trooper asked him to get back in the car. The trooper later told authorities that Ellis was in a white T-shirt and his passenger was in a black hoodie. Ellis did not provide his name, according to the affidavit.
When the trooper went back to his vehicle, Ellis allegedly pulled a three-point turn and drove away from the scene. The trooper followed for about a quarter of a mile before ending the pursuit, according to the affidavit.
Ellis then drove through Estes Park and onto National Park Service grounds, where he encountered Ranger M.H. Based on damage to the Sonata, it appeared Ellis crashed into a large rock and pushed it a couple of feet into a sign detailing park fees. Based on the way the vehicle was oriented on the road and the collision, special agents said they believed it was traveling westward at a "sufficient speed," the affidavit reads. Several marks on the car appeared to be bullet holes. The ranger's vehicle also had a bullet hole.
Authorities talked with the passenger in the vehicle and while coherent, she appeared under the influence of a substance during the interview, according to the affidavit. She did not want to identify the driver as Ellis, but agreed to call him that during the interview. She told authorities that when the ranger stopped them, he approached the Sonata with his gun drawn and ordered them both to get out of the car. She said she believed Ellis grabbed a semiautomatic handgun and started firing at the officer until he ran out of ammunition. She said the officer fired back, according to the affidavit.
The passenger said she believed Ellis was wanted by law enforcement and may have been scared.
Both the passenger and Ellis were taken into custody afterward, according to the affidavit.