Charges Issued After Rocky Mountain National Park Ranger Gets in Shootout with Suspect

by Jennifer Shea

Authorities have officially charged the man who allegedly got into a shootout with a Rocky Mountain National Park ranger with assault on a federal officer by use of a deadly weapon.

The suspect, 29-year-old Daron Marquel Ellis, appeared in federal court on Monday and heard the charges against him, Denver Channel 7 reports. He could serve up to 20 years in prison and/or pay a fine of up to $250,000.

On Dec. 8, Ellis allegedly shot at a National Park Service ranger near U.S. Highway 34, inside the borders of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fortunately, the ranger had on body armor. He fired back at Ellis and hit him. Ambulances then transported both men to a nearby hospital.  

Rocky Mountain National Park Ranger and Suspect Both Injured During Exchange

Apparently, the ranger had tried to apprehend Ellis a mere 30 minutes after a Colorado State Trooper had stopped Ellis’s red 2016 Hyundai Sonata for speeding. When the officer ran the car’s information through a national crime database, he discovered that both the car and its license plates were stolen.

Ellis was wearing a white T-shirt and his female passenger was wearing a black hoodie, according to the officer. At first, Ellis got out of the car unprompted, but the officer asked him to get back in. When the officer then turned around and went back to his vehicle, Ellis allegedly fled the scene in his stolen car.

After following Ellis for roughly a quarter-mile, the officer gave up. Ellis then made his way into Rocky Mountain National Park. He came across the ranger, who stopped the car again.

The female passenger, who seemed to authorities who later questioned her to be under the influence, said the ranger walked up with his gun drawn and told them to exit the car. Ellis allegedly pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and fired at the ranger. The ranger then fired back. The stolen Sonata sustained several bullet holes in the exchange, and the ranger’s vehicle got a bullet hole, as well.

While the ranger was wearing body armor, he did take an “impact wound” that formed a bruise about 10 inches wide in the wake of the exchange. As for Ellis, he is expected to survive his injury.

Suspect Crashed Car in National Park

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation into the shooting of the park ranger.

Authorities later surmised from the damage to the stolen car that Ellis had driven the Sonata into a large rock and run into a sign listing park fees. Special agents investigating the incident said the car appeared to be heading westward at a “sufficient speed” for that.

The female passenger, who was not injured in the exchange, was also taken into custody.

The incident occurred at around 10:15 a.m., forcing authorities to close Fall River Road from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park until Deer Ridge Junction. By that evening, authorities had cleared the way for traffic to resume.