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News / Northwest

Man who killed Washington police officer gets life sentence

By Associated Press
Published: April 17, 2023, 7:37pm

EVERETT — The man who fatally shot a police officer in Everett last year was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Richard Rotter, 51, apologized during his sentencing for killing officer Dan Rocha, 41, in a Starbucks parking lot in Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle, as Rocha tried to arrest him, the Daily Herald reported.

“My sincere apologies to the Rocha family and my family and everyone this has affected,” Rotter said. “I pray for everyone’s continued healing and restored peace. I ask you and everybody (to) please forgive me.”

During sentencing, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce I. Weiss called the fatal shooting a “brutal execution.”

The courtroom was crowded with Everett police, the city’s mayor and others.

Earlier this month, a jury found Rotter guilty of aggravated first-degree murder, unlawful gun possession, possession with the intent to manufacture or distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin, and attempting to elude police.

Rocha was on duty March 25, 2022, and waiting for a coffee when he saw Rocha moving guns between two cars in the parking lot, prosecutors said. Rotter, of Kennewick, Washington, had traveled to Everett, where he planned to buy a car, court documents said.

Rocha turned on his body camera and calmly engaged with Rotter, asking for his identification, according to court documents. Rocha learned Rotter had previous felony convictions and wasn’t supposed to have guns, the documents say. He also learned that he had a warrant out for his arrest.

Rocha tried to take Rotter into custody, according to court documents, but Rotter shot Rocha five times with a handgun he had hidden in a shoulder holster. Rocha had done a pat-down of Rotter’s waistband but had not found Rotter’s firearm, according to court documents. Rocha died at the scene.

Rotter then fled in a car and was arrested nearby after causing a three-vehicle crash.

Rotter’s public defender, Natalie Tarantino, has said her client had “no plan” to kill, but that a combination of drug use and post-traumatic stress led him to shoot Rocha.

Court records show Rotter had been convicted previously of crimes, including about a dozen felonies, mostly in southeastern Washington. Many of those cases were related to illegal drugs and several involved eluding police, according to court records.

Rocha’s sister, Morgen Henry, said in court that her brother was dedicated, supportive and a natural protector.

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