Man Sentenced for Attempted Murder of Rocky Mountain National Park Ranger

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The United States Attorney’s Office announced that 29-year old Daron Marquel Ellis from Aurora has been sentenced to 23 and a half years in federal prison for shooting a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2021. 

According to a press release, Ellis pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the second degree of a federal officer. The sentence also included the charge of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

Officials say the incident occurred on December 8, 2021, at around 10 AM. A Colorado State Patrol trooper attempted to stop Ellis for speeding on Highway 34 in Larimer County, according to the release. 

“Ellis initially stopped the car and got out without being asked to do so. The trooper directed Ellis to get back into the car and discussed the reason for the stop with him.”

Then, the trooper discovered that the license plate on the car was stolen. The report continues: “The trooper asked Ellis to get out of the car. At that point, Ellis fled at a high rate of speed up winding mountain roads. The trooper followed the vehicle for a short period of time before ending the pursuit,” the release said. 

RMNP rangers were alerted to the situation. They said that the car may be heading toward the park. However, around 10:15 AM, a ranger saw a car that matched the suspect’s description entering the park. 

Rocky Mountain National Park Ranger Wore a Ballistics Vest During Shooting

The press release detailed what happened next.

“As soon as the ranger recognized the car, he activated his emergency lights. By that point, the defendant’s vehicle attempted to evade the ranger by driving on the shoulder of the road and came to a stop after hitting several boulders that were just inside the boundary of RMNP. When the ranger got out of his marked law enforcement vehicle, he pulled his duty pistol and ordered the occupants of the car to show their hands,” officials said. 

However, that’s when things got gruesome. Ellis reportedly opened fire on the ranger using a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. The ranger was hit on the left side of his torso. Luckily, he was struck in an area protected by a ballistics vest. 

Ellis then reportedly fired multiple more rounds at the ranger. However, he then got shot himself and taken into custody. Ellis was charged with with assault on a federal officer by use of a deadly weapon.

“Today’s sentencing brings important resolution to the attempted murder of one of our valued law enforcement rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park and allows us to focus on healing.  We owe a great debt of gratitude to this ranger and all National Park Service law enforcement rangers who sometimes must contend with serious crimes that do not stop at the park boundary.”

“We express our deep appreciation to all who were involved with the investigation and securing this conviction including NPS rangers, the FBI, the Estes Park Police Department, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and the team of prosecuting attorneys,” said Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Darla Sidles.