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Thomas Ornelas, convicted killer, gunned down after shooting trooper Eugene Hofacker

Thomas Ornelas. More photos and a video below.
Thomas Ornelas. More photos and a video below.

Yesterday morning, Colorado State Trooper Eugene Hofacker stopped to help a motorist on Interstate 70 -- the sort of thing he probably did on a daily basis as part of his job. But this apparent act of kindness went south quickly. The motorist, identified as Thomas Ornelas, shot Hofacker, who's currently battling for his life. But Ornelas's is over: Hofacker's partner gunned down the man, a convicted killer who was awaiting trial for another murder try. Details, photo and a video below.

Eugene Hofacker.
Eugene Hofacker.

Hofacker's LinkedIn page notes that he came aboard at the CSP in January 2008. He's also described as a snowboard instructor at Vail Resorts, a gig he began in 2003.

Just after 9 a.m. yesterday morning, according to the State Patrol, Hofacker and a partner stopped to assist a motorist on I-70 at milepost 129, near the Western Slope community of Dotsero. But less than a minute later, the man shot Hofacker, who can be heard frantically communicating with dispatch in an audio recording obtained by 7News.

"I've got a wound to the leg," Hofacker said. "It looks like...ah...we got a lot of blood loss."

The scene of the shooting, from 7News coverage.
The scene of the shooting, from 7News coverage.

Hofacker's partner quickly unloaded on the motorist, who died at the scene, and then did his best to prevent Hofacker from bleeding out while waiting for an emergency crew to arrive.

"Need ambulance stat," the partner can be heard saying at one point. "I'm losing him. I'm losing him."

Fortunately, he was wrong about this last comment. An ambulance arrived in time and spirited Hofacker to a hospital in Glenwood Springs, where, at last report, he was in critical but stable condition.

As for Ornelas, whose age is listed by online sources at anywhere between 39 and 41, he appears to have lived how he died: violently. 7News reveals that he was convicted of second-degree murder when he was seventeen, and upon his release, he continued to rack up charges ranging from assault and domestic violence to drug-related beefs.

Then, in March 2013, according to a subscription-protected article from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Ornelas was busted in relation to a drive-by shooting at a trailer park in Fruita, a community not far from Grand Junction.

Another image from the scene.
Another image from the scene.

He was subsequently charged with attempted second-degree murder, assault with extreme indifference, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, illegal discharge of a firearm and criminal mischief, 7News reports.

Ornelas was scheduled to go to trial on these accusations in September. In the meantime, however, he was free, and the aforementioned gun counts didn't dissuade him from having a gat in his possession when he pulled over on the highway -- or from using it when approached by Trooper Hofacker.

In a statement, Colonel Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, tried to put the incident in perspective. "There is nothing routine about traffic contacts, including motorist assists," he said. "Our troopers assist motorists every day as part of our patrolling activities. All traffic contacts pose inherent risk to law enforcement on a daily basis."

Here's a larger look at Orenlas's mug shot, followed by 7News coverage.

Thomas Ornelas.
Thomas Ornelas.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Follow That Story archive circa May 8: "James Davies, cop killed by friendly fire: Lawsuit claims death was preventable."


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