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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 31, 2022

Aurora Man Sentenced to 23.5 Years in Federal Prison for Shooting Rocky Mountain National Park Ranger

**Updated on November 3, 2022, to include the law enforcement ranger's name, at the request of the National Park Service**

DENVER – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announces Daron Marquel Ellis, 29, of Aurora, was sentenced to 23.5 years in federal prison today after earlier pleading guilty to attempted murder in the second degree of a federal officer and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

According to the plea agreement in the case, Daron Marquel Ellis came to the attention of law enforcement on December 8, 2021, when a Colorado State Patrol trooper attempted to stop a vehicle Ellis was driving on Highway 34 in Larimer County for speeding. 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. The trooper learned the license plate on the car was stolen. 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.

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) rangers received information from dispatch about the car involved and that the car may be heading towards RMNP. Law Enforcement Ranger Mitchell Hauptman, who is employed by the National Park Service, was on duty that day, dressed in his standard uniform. He received the information, got in his law enforcement patrol vehicle and waited in the vicinity of Fall River entrance to RMNP.

At approximately 10:15 a.m., Ranger Hauptman saw a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle description enter RMNP. As soon as he 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 Ranger Hauptman got out of his marked law enforcement vehicle, he pulled his duty pistol and ordered the occupants of the car to show their hands. At that time, without provocation, Ellis began firing at Ranger Hauptman using a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. Ellis shot Ranger Hauptman on the left side of his torso in an area protected by the ranger's ballistics vest. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Evidence Response Team subsequently determined that a bullet entered the rear driver’s side column of the ranger’s vehicle in the same location where the ranger moved to take cover. Ellis fired multiple rounds at Ranger Hauptman and remained in the car the entire time he was shooting at the ranger. Ranger Hauptman returned fire when he knew his life was in danger and hit Ellis. Ellis eventually surrendered and was taken into custody. Ranger Hauptman had a bruise approximately 10 inches in diameter on the left side of his chest where he was shot.

“To shoot at and try to kill a peace officer is a particularly egregious crime that will be punished with significant time in federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan. “We wish the National Park Service ranger the very best as he continues his recovery from this incident.”

“Any assault on a federal officer warrants FBI attention, and personnel from FBI Denver were immediately dispatched to this incident in Rocky Mountain National Park,” said FBI Denver Acting Special Agent in Charge Matthew Fodor. “The National Park Service ranger performed his duties admirably and courageously as the gunman attacked. We are proud to assist in this prosecution and see this assailant receive justice.”

According to Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Darla Sidles, “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 Ranger Hauptman 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 NPS Investigative Services Branch, the FBI, the Estes Park Police Department, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and the team of prosecuting attorneys.”    

Judge Raymond P. Moore sentenced Ellis on October 31, 2022. He also sentenced Ellis to 5 years of supervised release.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver Division and the National Park Service investigated this case. Prosecution was handled by the Violent Crime and Immigration Enforcement Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Case Number: 22-cr-00006

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Deborah Takahara Public Affairs Specialist deborah.takahara@usdoj.gov
Updated November 3, 2022