AURORA | Aurora police have arrested a 42-year-old man on suspicion of felony attempted murder charges following a 10-hour standoff that culminated in a shootout and the discovery of a phony bomb just north of Quincy Reservoir early Tuesday morning.
Jeffrey Mitchell Moralez was arrested shortly before 5 a.m. on July 13 following an impasse with local authorities that began the previous day at 4283 S. Salida Way, police said.
The above video was captured by security video, supplied by an apartment resident.
Officials said Moralez sustained minor injuries during the incident, but no police officials or bystanders were harmed despite “a barrage of gunfire” throughout the evening.
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said Aurora police and counselors with Aurora Mental Health had contacted Moralez two dozen times since June 24 following multiple calls from neighbors and the local homeowner’s association concerning his recent erratic behavior. Wilson said Moralez had been found walking naked in the area in recent weeks and had sent threatening emails and voicemails to neighbors.
Arapahoe County property records indicate Moralez has owned unit six in the Chaparral Condos complex since October 2019. The facade of the condo was decimated during the encounter, according to images posted to Twitter.
Members of the city’s crisis response team, including a licensed therapist, went to Moralez’s home yesterday, though he declined to speak with them, Wilson said. Police responded to the home three separate times beginning at about 7 p.m. July 12 before he ultimately menaced police with a rifle and the standoff began.
Wilson said Moralez had previously been admitted for mental health treatment using a state law that allows officials to hold people for evaluation for up to 72-hours.
An Aurora man whose 62-year-old father has lived in a unit close to Moralez’s for the past eight months described Moralez as “a complete nightmare for the community.” The resident asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, and The Sentinel is honoring that request.
The resident said Moralez left as many as 500 voicemails for HOA staffers at the complex, complaining about noise levels, his neighbors’ pets and exterior doormats in the area. He said his father recently installed security cameras on his unit out of concerns for his safety and spent much of last night sheltering beside his stone fireplace in an effort to shield himself from possibly errant bullets.
Police negotiators attempted to convince Moralez to willfully surrender for hours late Monday night and into Tuesday morning, though he eventually began shooting at responding officers with a rifle and possibly other weapons, according to information released by police.
An armored vehicle carrying seven local SWAT officers was struck multiple times by gunfire, according to tweets. The vehicle, known as a bearcat, became stuck in muddy soil as the apartment complex’s sprinkler system rained water onto the area, Wilson said.
She said the bearcat’s windshield began to cave in upon being struck by bullets, but ultimately withstood the rifle rounds.
“Thank God (bullets) didn’t enter, otherwise we would have had, I believe, tragedy on our hands,” she said.
Because seven officers were inside the vehicle as it was being struck by gunfire, Wilson suggested police will recommend charging Moralez with at least seven counts of attempted murder.
“We are very lucky that we’re not having any more tragedy or funerals for officers,” she said. “These seven SWAT guys were put in a very, very bad situation as well as my patrol officers. Earlier in the evening when they responded, not having all the tactical gear and this person being armed with a rifle, this was a very dangerous situation and my officers acted heroically.”
Wilson said an Aurora officer who has been with the department for 40 years told her at the scene that: “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Two Aurora police officers at one point returned fire, though no one was shot, according to Officer Crystal McCoy, spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department. Details on how many shots were fired were not immediately released.
Officials with the Arapahoe County and Douglas County Sheriff’s Offices were also at the scene.
Because officers discharged their weapons, the incident is set to be forwarded to a regional investigations group in the judicial district serving Arapahoe County. Aurora police joined the review panel earlier this year as a means of ensuring enhanced transparency.
Residents in the neighborhood just north of East Quincy Avenue were asked to shelter in place multiple times throughout the night as police worked to apprehend Moralez. At least one home was struck by a bullet during the incident, Wilson said.
Shortly after an initial shelter-in-place order was lifted, residents were again asked to stay in their homes after a device that looked like a bomb was discovered in Moralez’s home, police said.
Officials with the Arapahoe County bomb squad determined the apparatus was “a hoax device, meaning it was not real although made to look like a device,” police said on Twitter.
The sheltering orders were again lifted shortly before 5:45 a.m. Traffic in the area remained snarled for much of the Tuesday morning commute.
Authorities are currently pursuing a search warrant to thoroughly search Moralez’s home.
Moralez is currently receiving treatment for his injuries sustained during the incident at a local hospital, McCoy said. Upon release, he will be processed at the municipal jail before being transferred to the Arapahoe County Detention Center in Centennial.
No criminal history information for Moralez appeared on a statewide database using the initial information police provided. McCoy said today marked the first time Aurora police had accused Moralez of a crime in their 24 recent contacts with him.