AURORA, Colo. — A suspect who allegedly shot at Aurora police is in custody and authorities say a suspicious device found in the condo where he was hiding is not a threat.
On Monday afternoon, shortly after 1 p.m., officers with the Aurora Police Department responded to the Chaparral Condominiums along the 4200 block of S. Salida Way for what was "basically a welfare check" and "mental health crisis," said Crystal McCoy, spokesperson with the police department.
She said police knew the man from previous recent mental health crises — they've responded to a call at his address 24 times since June 24.
Neighbors and the complex's HOA had called police before with concerns about the man's erratic behavior, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said, and she believes the man had been threatening neighbors for several weeks. He had also called police himself for help before. Wilson explained that Aurora's mental health specialists have responded to try to help the man in the past.
Initially, one officer and a clinician from the Aurora Mental Health Center responded, but the man — later identified as Jeffrey Mitchell Moralez, 42 — refused help, according to a news release from Aurora police. Just after 7 p.m., people called dispatch to report he had a gun on his hip outside and was "being disruptive," the news release said. But since he was not "engaged in criminal activity," officers did not speak with him.
Aurora police responded to the complex again at 8:41 p.m. after Moralez was reported to have harassed people nearby. Just after 9 p.m., according to the police department, he pointed a rifle at an officer, which was when the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office's bomb squad and SWAT team, as well as Douglas County's SWAT team, responded, and CodeRED alerts were sent out to neighbors.
Just before 4 a.m. Tuesday, according to police, and after hours of negotiating, Moralez allegedly fired rounds at the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office BearCat vehicle after it got stuck in the mud, which severely damaged its windshield. Two Aurora police officers returned fire.
APD says that Moralez was not hit by the officers' gunfire but was wounded by shrapnel.
The building was evacuated and police returned fire. Wilson said based on the body camera footage, she heard officers demand the man to stop shooting multiple times.
"When we were trying to provide assistance, we were confronted with a life-threatening situation," McCoy said.
Police said nobody was injured in the shooting.
A reverse 911 was sent out to the surrounding areas and a shelter in place was issued around 4:30 a.m. Sheltering in place means residents should stay inside the building they're currently in to avoid a possibly life-threatening situation.
Around 4:51 a.m., police said the suspect, who was identified as Moralez, was in custody. He had minor injuries.
The shelter in place was lifted at 5 a.m., however officers located a suspicious device — what appeared to be an IED — in the home shortly afterward, and residents were again asked to stay in their homes.
At 5:15 a.m., police said the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad was working to render the device safe. The shelter in place was lifted around the 5:40 a.m. when the bomb squad said they had determined the object was a hoax device, though it was made to look like a real one.
"Fortunately, that has been collected and we know now that it wasn't a bomb, but that is what caused all of the shelter in place orders throughout the night," McCoy said.
The exterior of the condo has significant damage.
"I hope now that this has been handled and no one has been significantly injured, everyone has a greater sense of peace this morning," she said.
Wilson said the risk of an officer getting hurt or killed in the situation was "very high," and she's thankful nobody was seriously hurt.
McCoy said the officers who responded Tuesday morning handled the situation "perfectly and heroically."
Wilson said the suspect will likely face attempted murder charges.
The two APD officers who fired their weapons have been placed on standard administrative leave while the 18th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team investigates the shooting.
Morlaez remained hospitalized as of Tuesday afternoon.
This marks the second police shooting in Aurora in two days. On Monday, an Aurora police officer shot at a driver while responding to a reported domestic violence incident. Wilson confirmed Tuesday that they have identified the person and are in contact with his or her attorney. She said police hope the person turns themselves in.
Editor's Note: Denver7 is not using a photo of the man because he was allegedly in a mental health crisis.