Final details emerge in Glenwood Canyon shooting |

Final details emerge in Glenwood Canyon shooting

Will Grandbois
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Thomas Ornelas

Convicted felon Thomas Ornelas suffered 11 gunshot wounds and Trooper Eugene Hofacker suffered three gunshot wounds in a May 8 shootout that killed Ornelas and put Hofacker in the hospital, according to documents obtained by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Garfield County coroner.

In a same-day interview with investigators, Trooper Shane Gosnell described the circumstances that led him to shoot and kill Ornelas.

Gosnell reported that Hofacker was giving him a ride to a training session in a patrol car and that they were in the left lane when they observed a red BMW parked on the side of the road around 9 a.m. According to Gosnell, State Patrol policy instructs troopers to stop for any motorist who needs help in Glenwood Canyon due to narrow lines, small shoulders and lack of cellphone reception.

The pair pulled over, though the process of merging from the left lane reportedly brought the patrol car closer to the stopped vehicle than is standard for such stops.

Hofacker then approached the passenger side of the vehicle, knocked on the window, opened the door and spoke with the occupant, later identified as Ornelas, 40, of Montrose, Gosnell said.

After getting out of the car, Gosnell said he saw what appeared to be an argument between Hofacker and the driver and called in an intoxicated, uncooperative driver on the radio. Hofacker then approached the driver’s-side door, which was slightly ajar, told Ornelas to stay in the car and asked for documentation, Gosnell said.

As Hofacker handed Gosnell the documents and asked him to run them, Gosnell reported that Ornelas told the troopers, “I don’t want you here. I don’t need you here. Just leave me alone.”

Hofacker then asked Ornelas to step out of the vehicle while Gosnell walked back to the patrol car to radio the information in, Gosnell said. As he turned away from the road to block the wind, Gosnell heard a shot, followed by a scream and another shot as he turned back to the scene, he said. He drew his gun and came around the patrol car to the front driver’s side, he said. From this vantage point, he saw Ornelas holding a black semi-automatic handgun and Hofacker retreating backward and attempting to take cover, he said.

After his first few shots had no apparent effect, Gosnell kept firing until Ornelas dropped to his knees and then fired more when Ornelas failed to drop the weapon, Gosnell said.

Gosnell said he did not recall either him or Hofacker issuing any verbal commands to Ornelas once the shooting began.

In all, Gosnell fired 14 rounds. His gun’s capacity was reported as 15 rounds in the magazine and another round in the chamber. Therefore, Gosnell had at least one shot remaining in the gun as well as two more 15-round magazines.

Once the suspect was on the ground, Gosnell approached and kicked away the handgun, he said. He observed that Ornelas was moaning but not moving much and turned his attention to Hofacker, who was visibly bleeding from the leg, he said.

Hofacker reportedly told Gosnell that Ornelas had pulled the gun from under the driver’s seat and that Hofacker had tried to pull his taser and his gun.

Ornelas was pronounced dead at the scene by the Garfield County coroner at 10:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, Hofacker was transported to Valley View Hospital, where he underwent surgery beginning around 10:30 a.m.

According to the Garfield County Coroner’s report, most of Ornelas’ 11 gunshot wounds were confined to his chest and abdomen.

Gosnell’s first shot passed through Ornelas’s left wrist before striking him in the chest, where it grazed his left lung and pierced his diaphragm and spleen, the report said. Ornelas took 10 more shots in the chest, hip, abdomen and crotch, the report said. Although the coroner’s report listed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds, it noted that the eighth bullet, which passed through his heart and lungs, would have been fatal on its own.

“This gunshot wound was not instantly incapacitating, but was rapidly fatal,” the report said.

The forensic pathologist found no evidence that any of the gunshot wounds occurred at close range, indicating an approximate distance of 10 feet.

The autopsy also found evidence of past cocaine use by Ornelas, a blood-alcohol level of 0.186 percent and indications of steatohepatitis, a type of liver failure associated with alcoholism.

Ornelas arrived at the morgue handcuffed and bearing two defibrillation pads from an attempted resuscitation.

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