Montrose Man Reportedly Intoxicated at Time of Shootout With Troopers
MONTROSE — According to a toxicology report, the Montrose man who died in a shootout with Colorado State Patrol Troopers in May had a blood alcohol content of 0.186 and traces of cocaine in his system at the time of the incident.
Thomas Ornelas of Montrose was traveling from Denver to Montrose on May 8 when he apparently experienced car trouble and pulled to the side of Interstate 70 near mile marker 129 near Dotsero. A pair of CSP Troopers, Eugene Hofacker and Shane Gosnell pulled in behind Ornelas’s red BMW sedan at about 9:10 a.m. to initiate “a motorist assist,” according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the report, released earlier this month, Trooper Hofacker noted signs of intoxication coming from Ornelas and that he became “uncooperative and argumentative.”
“Without warning, Ornelas fired several rounds at Trooper Hofacker striking him multiple times,” the report said.
Trooper Gosnell, who was positioned to the rear of the State Patrol vehicle, “saw that his fellow Trooper’s life was in immediate danger” and fired several shots.
Ornelas then fell to his knees but continued to hold onto his handgun.
“Trooper Gosnell continued to fire at Ornelas, firing a total of 14 rounds. Only after Ornelas fell completely to the ground and stopped being a threat to Trooper Hofacker, did Trooper Gosnell stop firing at the suspect,” the report said.
Ornelas was pronounced dead on the scene and as a fellow trooper, Corporal Coby Smart, arrived to begin treatment of Hofacker, who had sustained a gun shot wound to his femoral artery.
Hofacker was transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and continues to recover from the shooting.
A subsequent investigation into the shooting revealed Ornelas was transporting approximately 4.7 ounces of suspected cocaine in his car.
On May 9 an autopsy of Ornelas’ body revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.186 and evidence of cocaine in his blood.
On social media Ornelas was described by friends in Montrose as “warm and friendly,” but a troubled man who suffered from “demons.” He had a history of prior arrests.
At the time of the shooting, Ornelas was out of jail on a $75,000 bond and was awaiting trial this fall for second-degree murder in Mesa County.
Records there say he was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon, assault with extreme indifference, criminal mischief, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, and illegal discharge of a firearm. A condition of his bond was that he not possess any firearms.
According to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation report, Ornelas was first arrested in 1991, at age 17; as an adult, he was convicted of homicide. He was jailed in 1991 in Canon City and paroled in 2002, according to the Department of Corrections.
According to court records, Ornelas was arrested multiple times in Montrose over the years for parole violations, misdemeanor assault and protection order violations. In one conviction, he was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer.
He was sent back to prison in 2003 for a parole violation and released in 2004. In October 2005 he was released from his 18-year sentence, according to the CBI report.