DENVER – A 24-year-old man was arrested for investigation of attempted murder and multiple other charges after allegedly stealing a man’s truck, exchanging gunfire with him and with law enforcement, and a pursuit down Highway 285.
Kaelen Bernal, 24, was arrested for investigation on charges including attempted first-degree murder after deliberation; attempted first-degree murder – extreme indifference; attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer; first-degree assault of a police officer; first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft; vehicular eluding; possession of a weapon by a previous offender; reckless endangerment; and resisting arrest, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the sheriff’s office and Frank Maixner, the man whose truck was stolen, Bernal and another man stole Maixner’s flatbed work truck, outfitted with a crane, several toolboxes and a trailer, sometime Thursday afternoon from his business south of Indian Hills.
Maixner told Denver7 Friday he followed the suspects in a different vehicle after calling the sheriff’s office around 6 p.m. – giving dispatch a “blow-by-blow of what was going on” as they got close to Tiny Town on 285.
The sheriff’s office said near Tiny Town, Bernal got out of the truck and fired several shots at Maixner.
“The driver got out and started shooting at me – about six rounds,” Maixner said. “I backed up, I ducked down below the dash, and I was about 300 feet away. … If I was any closer, they could have shot me. So I’m pretty lucky to even be here, to be honest with you.”
After that, Bernal and another man got back into the truck, drove off, and shot at a sheriff’s deputy, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies started chasing the truck on Highway 285. Near the intersection with Highway 8, two deputies were waiting to deploy stop sticks, but Bernal drove off the shoulder of the road to avoid them.
According to the sheriff’s office, Bernal shot at the two deputies, who both fired back.
The trailer fell off the truck at this time, and Bernal kept driving into the Friendly Hills neighborhood and into Weaver Hollow Park despite having blown-out tires, according to the sheriff’s office.
VIDEO: Here’s the moment when a wild pursuit in JeffCo Thursday ended in a crash in a Morrison neighborhood. Watch closely as the suspect hides underneath the truck he hit before running. Tonight at 5 on @DenverChannel — video of the stolen vehicle plowing through a crowded park pic.twitter.com/ZUEw7gzYm4— Bayan Wang (@bayanwang) April 8, 2022
He drove around the park before a deputy was able to ram the backside of the truck and disable it, the sheriff’s office said. But Bernal and the man who was with him fled on foot. Deputies took both into custody about a block away, and they found a gun inside the cab of the stolen truck, the sheriff’s office said.
Bernal and the other man were taken to a hospital for minor injuries. The sheriff’s office said it released the other man without charges but did not say why.
No deputies or bystanders were injured by any of the shots that were fired, according to the sheriff’s office.
Maixner said he was angry that thieves had stolen his truck in broad daylight and that he followed them to be sure he had eyes on them until law enforcement could get involved.
“Thank God nobody was hurt during this whole thing,” he said Friday. “We’re still living in an area where you don’t lock your doors all the time, you know, you don’t have to lock your gates. I’ve been in this one yard for eight years and never had any kind of incident like this.”
Maixner said his truck was likely worth about $100,000 with all the additions and said so far it seems like the truck will be totaled.
“Hopefully I can get some of the railings back,” he said. “…If anybody needs a 7.3-liter diesel engine, let me know.”
Ben Hanna, who lives near Weaver Hollow Park, said he had never seen anything like the pursuit Thursday night, with the vehicle driving through the heavily trafficked park.
“Almost every day, we come down this path and see lots of other people out walking their dogs and walking and running,” Hanna said.
The sheriff’s office said the investigation into the ordeal is ongoing. The First Judicial District Attorney’s Critical Incident Response Team will conduct the investigation into the police shooting aspect.
The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with more information about the incident, or who saw what happened at Weaver Hollow Park, to call the tip line at 303-271-5612.