Scott N. Miller and Randy Wyrick
Daily staff writers

Colorado state trooper shot on I-70; alleged gunman shot and killed at scene

EAGLE COUNTY — A Colorado State Patrol trooper was shot and a suspect was killed in an incident along westbound Interstate 70 Thursday morning in Glenwood Canyon.

Trooper Eugene Hofacker, 31, is in critical but stable condition at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Hofacker and another trooper were traveling in a car westbound on their way to training in Glenwood Springs. They stopped at mile marker 129, near the Bair Ranch exit just inside the east end of the canyon, to assist a motorist whose car was stopped on the shoulder of the road shortly after 9 a.m., Vallario said.

Hofacker approached the car on the driver’s side, and the driver shot the trooper once, Vallario said. The second trooper returned fire as he approached the car from the rear on the passenger side and killed the suspect, the only occupant in the car, the sheriff said.

Police have not named the dead suspect pending notification of next of kin, but Vallario said he has an extensive history of violent crime and did some prison time. Vallario said it was an isolated incident and no other suspects were involved.

Hofacker is a six-year veteran of the force who is based out of the Eagle-Vail post.

“This highlights the job that all law enforcement and troopers do, walking up on a vehicle, and how dangerous it can be,” said Colorado State Patrol Chief Scott Hernandez.

Troopers do not normally ride together in cars, but in this case, “I believe it was life-saving,” Hernandez said.

Several troopers in the area were on their way to the training, and they were able to administer first aid within moments and secure the scene, he said.

“The troopers acted in absolutely heroic fashion,” Hernandez said.

The initial investigation was hampered due to lack of cell service and difficulty with radios in the canyon, Vallario said.

The interstate was closed in both directions for much of the day. Eastbound lanes reopened shortly after 2 p.m. Vallario said at a 4:30 p.m. briefing that the scene has been cleared, and they hope to have the westbound lanes open within an hour.

The interstate closures were necessary, Vallario said, because officers’ first priority was to secure the crime scene.

“We have a crime scene literally in the middle of the highway,” Vallario said. “A state trooper was shot and the investigation will take time. We hope motorists understand that.”

Until the highway re-opens, westbound traffic is being routed northbound over State Highway 131 from Wolcott, then westbound on U.S. Highway 40 through Steamboat Springs.

Eagle County Sheriff’s officers are working to keep traffic off the Cottonwood Pass road, and Colorado Department of Transportation crews and the State Patrol are clearing vehicles out of the canyon. Westbound motorists headed to the southern part of the state — Delta, Montrose and points south — are asked to take Colorado Highway 9 through Summit County, then U.S. Highway 285 to U.S. Highway 50.

This story will be updated.

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The Summit Daily Updated May 8, 2014 07:52PM Published May 10, 2014 11:02AM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.