State Patrol officer still recovering after being shot last year | PostIndependent.com

State Patrol officer still recovering after being shot last year

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Eugene Hofacker was badly wounded after been shot in Glenwood Canyon in May of 2014. Hofacker continues to work on his recovery
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How to help

The Eugene for Eugene campaign — a fund-raiser for both Eugene Hofacker and the Flying Wheels Campaign for Injured Troopers — can be found at Crowdrise.com.

EAGLE COUNTY — Eugene Hofacker isn’t back on patrol yet, but he’s still trying to help a couple of communities. He continues rehab to make himself whole again after being shot and badly wounded in May 2014.

Hofacker, a Colorado State Patrol trooper, was driving to Glenwood Springs with fellow Trooper Shane Gosnell for a training session the morning of May 8. On the east end of Glenwood Canyon, the pair stopped to aid a motorist who was sitting in a car parked on the shoulder of Interstate 70.

That motorist turned out to be Thomas Ornelas, 40 of Montrose, a man with a long, violent criminal history. The autopsy and investigation showed Ornelas to be drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of .186, and transporting a half-pound cocaine.

The traffic stop quickly turned violent, with Ornelas shooting Hofacker four times. Gosnell returned fire, killing Ornelas.

If Hofacker had been alone, he probably wouldn’t be here today, and he’s quick to credit both Gosnell and Sgt. Coby Smart, who was moments behind in another car, with saving his life.

Smart had a trauma kit in his car and immediately went to work, putting pressure on Hofacker’s wounds and applying a clotting compound to help slow the bleeding. By the time Hofacker was transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, he’d lost a lot of blood. But he was on his way home just days later.

Since then, Hofacker has had more surgery — and needs still more in the future. He spends what seems like most of his time with various physical therapists. It’s been hard work, and the job is far from finished. Hofacker can sit for 20 or 30 minutes at a time before he has to stand up and move around. That has to change if Hofacker’s going to get back to work as a patrol officer.

For now, Hofacker’s on light duty in the office, and even that is difficult. But Hofacker wants to get back on the road. And, he said, he wants to stay in the Vail Valley.

“I volunteered to come to Vail right after graduating from the academy,” he said. That’s unusual for this area, given the cost of living, the sheer size of the patrol area and the conditions officers often work in.

But, Hofacker said, he’s loved the outdoors all his life, and has experience as a ski instructor as well as a police officer.

“This is my home, my community,” he said. “I intend to stay.”

Hofacker’s recovery efforts have inspired the people he’s working with as he strives to get better.

In fact, it was one of his therapists who came up with the idea of “Eugene for Eugene,” a fund-raiser associated with the annual marathon in Eugene, Ore.

That therapist is running her first marathon at that event, and wants to raise money to help her friend. There are still questions about just who is going to pay the gigantic medical bills that go along with being seriously wounded. There are other costs, too, and they’re stacking up.

But, Hofacker said, he doesn’t want the marathon to be just about him. That’s why the beneficiary of Eugene for Eugene is actually the Flying Wheels Foundation for Injured Troopers.

That foundation is a place for officers injured in the line of duty to get together for support and to share information. Hofacker has been working with other officers, talking to groups and generally working to help others in similar circumstances.

“The goal is to go nationwide, and I’m kind of the poster boy,” Hofacker said.

While the physical recovery has been grueling, Hofacker said his spirits are high. He has work to do, but he’s also had a lot of support from friends, his church family and others.

“The outpouring of support has been fantastic,” he said. “We’ve gotten cards, flowers, gift cards — it’s all very appreciated.”

And the rehab work continues. Hofacker’s doctors tell him he’s probably ahead of schedule.

“During the past nine months, Eugene has amazed us all,” the therapist wrote on the Crowdrise funding web page for the Eugene for Eugene project.

And through it, Hofacker hopes his work in the future can help others.

“I want to pay back, and provide some of the support I’ve had,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.


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