AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Police Department (APD) had 24 contacts since June 24 with a man who was accused of starting a shootout with officers early Tuesday morning, according to Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.
“Sometimes he would call us for help. And he wanted to talk to officers. Other times neighbors would call in," Wilson said.
The suspect, identified as Jeffrey Mitchell Moralez, 42, was taken into custody at about 5 a.m. at 4283 S. Salida Way after a standoff that prompted a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents, APD said.
APD had tweeted at 4:28 a.m. that officers and SWAT members were attempting to arrest a suspect who had shot at them several times.
Wilson said at a media briefing later Tuesday morning that the suspect had fired so many shots at an Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office bearcat with seven SWAT members inside that the windshield had started to give way.
"This was very traumatizing for my officers, and I applaud them for their patience," Wilson said.
No officers or community members were injured. Wilson said APD has Moralez in custody on suspicion of attempted murder.
The police chief called the situation a mental health crisis.
Chief Wilson says for weeks, Moralez had been threatening neighbors with voicemails and e-mail to the point the homeowners association reached out to APD's Crisis Response Team for help on Monday.
"They actually responded yesterday (Monday) at 1 o'clock with a clinician with a therapist from Aurora mental health with them. Tried to make contact with him again as they previously had contact with him and he told them he did not want to interact with them whatsoever," Wilson said.
Police returned around 7 p.m. after receiving more calls about Moralez, this time that he was walking around with a rifle. Once police arrived, they said he menaced them which prompted the SWAT team.
“Last night, maybe around 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock or so, I went to take my dog out and we stepped outside and saw that our street was lined with parked police cars. And we were immediately instructed to go back inside," said neighbor Miranda Noack.
At one point during the incident, a second shelter-in-place was issued after officers discovered there was a suspicious device inside the home, according to police.
At 5:42 a.m., police said the suspicious device was rendered safe and the shelter-in-place order was lifted. The device was not real, but made to look like a real explosive device, police said.
APD shared a photo of the bearcat vehicle belonging to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office which was riddled with bullet holes and stuck in the mud.
One neighbor told us he heard consecutive gunshots. "About 40 to 50 is what I heard. Just a terrifying situation," said Chris Smith.
Wilson said two officers fired their weapons at Moralez during the standoff. He was hit by shrapnel and is being treated at a local hospital. The two officers who fired their weapons are on administrative leave.
Wilson said APD was working on a search warrant to go inside the home.
"It's a very sad situation that he's living with mental illness," Wilson said. "But this was a dangerous situation for my officers and the community."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867 or visit metrodenvercrimestoppers.com. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000.
Metro Denver Crime Stoppers works by assigning a code to people who anonymously submit a tip. Information is shared with law enforcement, and Crime Stoppers is notified at the conclusion of the investigation.
From there, an awards committee reviews the information provided and, if the information leads to an arrest, the tipster will be notified. Rewards can be collected using the code numbers received when the tip was originally submitted.
> More information about Metro Denver Crime Stoppers can be found here.
> Additional Crime Stoppers bulletins can be found here.
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