Garfield Sheriff: Suspect That Shot Trooper Had Alcohol, Cocaine in His System

Today the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office today released details of their investigation into the shooting of Trooper Eugene Hofaker on May 8th.

Key points in the report:

  • Trooper Eugene Hofaker was shot multiple times by Thomas Ornelas
  • Trooper Shane Gosnell fired 14 shots at Thomas Ornelas, hitting him multiple times
  • Ornelas’ autopsy revealed cocain and a Blood Alcohol Content was more than twice the legal limit
  • Approximately 2.7 Ounces of Cocaine were located in Ornelas’ car

The full text of today’s release follows.

On Thursday May 8th, 2014, just after 9:00am, Troopers Eugene Hofacker and Shane Gosnell were travelling together to attend a two hour training block at the State Patrol Office in Glenwood Springs, CO. Since Troopers Hofacker and Gosnell were going to perform regular patrol duties after the training, they were in full uniform.

As they approached the westbound mile marker 129 on Interstate 70, the Troopers observed a red sedan on the shoulder of the road. Trooper Hofacker pulled the marked Colorado State Patrol vehicle behind the red sedan and initiated a motorist assist. Trooper Hofacker made the initial contact with the driver, Thomas A. Ornelas (D.O.B. 7/7/1973). Trooper Gosnell assisted Trooper Hofacker in the motorist assist. During the course of the motorist assist, Trooper Hofacker noted signs of intoxication coming from the driver. During the next few minutes, Ornelas became uncooperative and argumentative.

Without warning, Ornelas fired several rounds at Trooper Hofacker striking him multiple times. Trooper Gosnell, who was positioned to the rear of the State Patrol vehicle, saw that his fellow Trooper’s life was in immediate danger. Trooper Gosnell approached Ornelas and fired several shots. Trooper Gosnell observed that Ornelas fell to his knees and that Ornelas still had a gun. Trooper Gosnell continued to fire at Ornelas, firing a total of 14 rounds. Only after Ornelas fell completely to the ground and stopped being a threat to Trooper Hofacker, did Trooper Gosnell stop firing at the suspect.

A [third] Trooper, Corporal Coby Smart responded within minutes of the shooting. Upon arrival, he initiated life saving medical treatment to Trooper Hofacker by applying pressure to Trooper Hofacker’s femoral artery, which sustained a gunshot wound. Coincidently, an Eagle County Paramedic Service supervisor was driving in an ambulance service sports utility vehicle east bound through Glenwood Canyon when the call was dispatched for an ambulance to respond to the scene. An ambulance responded and arrived within minutes to aid in the emergency medical treatment of Trooper Hofacker. Trooper Hofacker was subsequently transported to the Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. There he underwent surgery and received other intensive care.

The subsequent investigation into the shooting revealed that Ornelas was en route to his home in Montrose, CO from the Denver, CO area. He had indicated to a friend earlier in the day that he was having mechanical trouble and that he may need to be picked up. A search of Ornelas’ vehicle, a 2006 BMW that registered to Ornelas, revealed approximately (4.7) ounces of suspected cocaine.

On May 9, 2014, an autopsy of Ornelas’ body was performed. The autopsy revealed that Ornelas had sustained several gunshots. The autopsy also revealed that Ornelas had a blood alcohol content of 0.186 and that there was evidence of cocaine in Ornelas’ blood.

In the days and weeks following the shooting, investigators interviewed Trooper Hofacker, Trooper Gosnell, and eyewitnesses. In addition, investigators reviewed evidence, scene photos, and submitted several pieces of evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for further analysis.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has turned over all reports, photographs, and other evidence to the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s Office for their review.