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Suspect pleads guilty to federal charge in park ranger shooting

The ranger, who was shot in December 2021, was wearing a ballistic vest and was not seriously hurt.

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — The man who shot a park ranger in Larimer County, following a pursuit involving a Colorado State trooper late last year, pleaded guilty to a federal charge in the case.

Daron Ellis pleaded guilty July 14 to attempted second-degree murder of a federal officer, court records show. He's now set for sentencing on Oct. 31.

According to an arrest affidavit, Ellis shot at the ranger with a handgun near Highway 34 just a few yards into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) around 10:15 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2021.

The shooting happened after the ranger attempted to stop the vehicle that Ellis was driving, the affidavit says.

> Above video aired in December 2021 on the day of the shooting.

About a half hour before that, a Colorado State Patrol (CSP) trooper encountered the vehicle and pulled over the driver for speeding on Highway 34, the affidavit says. During that traffic stop, the affidavit says, the trooper did a search and realized that it appeared both the vehicle and license plate had been stolen separately. The vehicle and plate came back as registered to separate owners.

RELATED: Ballistic vest protected park ranger from serious injuries in shooting

At one point, the driver, later identified as Ellis, got out of the vehicle without being asked and eventually got back in, did a three-point turn, and drove off, the affidavit says. The trooper followed the vehicle for about a quarter mile before ending his pursuit.

Ellis drove through Estes Park before entering park grounds and encountering the park ranger, the affidavit says.

An 18-year-old woman who was in the car with Ellis said when they encountered the ranger, Ellis "fishtailed" the car and went off the road and hit rocks, the affidavit says. The woman went on to say that the ranger got out of his car and approached their vehicle with his gun drawn and ordered them to "get out," with their hands up and threatened to shoot them, the document says. 

She reported that Ellis got a handgun and fired at the ranger "until he was out of ammunition," the affidavit says. She said she believed that Ellis fired first and the ranger fired back, striking Ellis.

RELATED: Additional charges filed against man accused of shooting park ranger

The ranger was protected by a ballistic vest and did not suffer serious injuries, according to the National Park Service. The ranger was struck in the left chest area and had an "impact" wound that did not break the skin due to his vest. He did have a bruise about 10 inches in diameter, the affidavit says.

Charges at the state level are also still pending against Ellis. Those charges include:

  • Vehicular eluding
  • Aggravated motor vehicle theft
  • Fictitious plates

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