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1 in custody after exchanging gunfire with deputies during pursuit

Kaelen Alberto Bernal faces attempted murder charges, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — There were no major injuries after deputies with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) exchanged gunfire two times with a car theft suspect during a pursuit Thursday evening, the agency said.

The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Kaelen Alberto Bernal, was taken into custody and faces attempted murder charges. Bernal was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries, and no other injuries were reported, according to JCSO.

The other person in the vehicle was interviewed at the sheriff's office and released with no charges, JCSO said. 

According to JCSO, the pair were in a flatbed pickup truck towing a trailer that was stolen early Thursday from Maxx Steel Services on Goddard Ranch Court near Morrison.

The registered owner spotted the truck traveling northbound on Highway 285 near Surrey Drive about 6 p.m. He followed the vehicle onto South Turkey Creek Road to the area of Tiny Town, where Bernal fired multiple shots at him, the sheriff's office said.

Shortly after that, Bernal engaged in gunfire with a sheriff’s deputy, and they began a chase, the agency said. Deputies pursued the vehicle northbound on Highway 285 past Parmalee Gulch Road and toward C-470.

Two deputies were staged on Highway 285 just north of Highway 8 to deploy stop sticks, but as Bernal approached, he drove off the right shoulder of Highway 285 onto an embankment toward Turkey Creek Road and avoided the full impact of the stop sticks. 

At that time, Bernal fired multiple shots at two deputies who returned fire, according to JCSO. The truck lost the trailer it was towing and continued onto Turkey Creek Road, heading north.

From Turkey Creek Road, the sheriff's office said, Bernal turned east onto Quincy Avenue and drove east in the westbound lanes. The vehicle drove into the Friendly Hills neighborhood, ending up on South Youngfield Street. He then drove into Weaver Hollow Park – driving on bare rims – and continued around the ballfield backstop, northbound through the park, JCSO said.

Due to Bernal being armed, having already fired multiple times during the pursuit, and driving erratically in the park, deputies continued their pursuit, according to the sheriff's office.

A short distance later, JCSO said, a deputy impacted the back side of Bernal's truck, causing it to crash and become undriveable. 

Bernal and the man with him ran from the crash in opposite directions, JCSO said. Not long after, both were taken into custody nearby. A handgun was located in the cab of the stolen vehicle.

Bernal is being held on the following charges, according to JCSO:

  • Attempted first degree murder (deliberation)
  • Attempted first degree murder (extreme indifference)
  • Attempted first degree murder (peace officer)
  • 1st degree assault (peace officer)
  • 1st degree aggravated motor vehicle theft
  • Vehicular eluding
  • Possession of a weapon by a previous offender
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Resisting arrest

A total of three deputies fired their weapons, according to the sheriff's office. The incident will be investigated by the district attorney's Critical Incident Response Team, JCSO said. 

Investigators are requesting anyone with information related to the incident to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line at 303-271-5612 or Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867 and reference case number 22-6051.

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