EAGLE COUNTY — A motorist who shot a Colorado State Patrol trooper after he stopped to help him was killed when a second trooper returned fire.
Trooper Eugene Hofacker, 31, is in critical but stable condition following surgery at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, said Scott Hernandez, chief of the Colorado State Patrol.
The dead suspect, whose name is not being released pending notification of next of kin, has an “extensive” history of violent crime, said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. The suspect died at the scene.
The second trooper is part of the investigation and his name was not released.
Vallario said it was an isolated incident and that no other suspects were involved. The driver was alone in the vehicle, he said.
WHAT POLICE SAY HAPPENED
The two troopers were riding together, headed west along Interstate 70 toward Glenwood Springs for a training session. About 9 a.m. Thursday, they spotted a vehicle stranded on the right shoulder near mile marker 129, the Bair Ranch exit, near the east end of Glenwood Canyon, so they stopped to help.
Hofacker approached the vehicle on the driver’s side, and as he approached the door, the driver shot him with a handgun, Vallario said.
The second trooper, who was approaching the car on the opposite side from the rear, returned fire and killed the driver, Vallario said.
Vallario said gunfire was exchanged, but it’s unknown how many shots were fired. That’s part of the investigation, he said.
Hofacker was in and out of consciousness as he was being rushed by ambulance to Valley View. He had lost a lot of blood, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Hofacker was wearing body armor, Hernandez said, but could not say if it saved his life.
What saved his life was having two troopers in the car, and several more in the immediate vicinity. They were on their way to that same training session in Glenwood Springs.
“I believe it was life-saving,” Hernandez said.
The other troopers were on the scene in moments and were able to administer first aid and secure the crime scene, Vallario said.
Westbound I-70 was closed around 9 a.m. Thursday, the time of the shooting. It remained closed until just after 5 p.m. Eastbound lanes were also closed for much of the day.
“We have a crime scene literally in the middle of the highway,” Vallario said.
Tempers started to run a little high as traffic remained stopped.
A man was suspected of waving a gun at the Department of Transportation workers as they worked traffic control. The suspect was immediately descended upon by some of the many law enforcement officers at the scene.
The man and a woman were handcuffed and questioned but were later released when the presence of a gun could not be confirmed.
In another incident, a truck driver stuck in the closure jumped down from his truck and almost started a fight with a Department of Transportation worker.
“People need to try to understand that we’re just doing our jobs, the same as everyone else,” said a Department of Transportation staffer at the scene.