A young child brings flowers to the memorial of fallen Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha on Saturday in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A young child brings flowers to the memorial of fallen Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha on Saturday in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

‘Heart for service’: City grieves Everett officer slain in shooting

Officer Dan Rocha was killed Friday. Suspected shooter Richard Rotter, of Kennewick, had a history of fleeing police.

EVERETT — Tributes have poured in for fallen officer Dan Rocha, a husband and father of two who was gunned down Friday afternoon while on patrol near Everett Community College.

Rocha, 41, joined the Everett Police Department as a parking enforcement officer in 2017. A year later he was promoted to patrol, where he worked a beat in north Everett.

“He was well-liked, highly respected by his co-workers and truly loved serving our residents,” Police Chief Dan Templeman said in a statement released Saturday. “There are no words to make sense of this tragedy or to ease the pain for Officer Rocha’s grieving family. Officer Rocha was a loving husband and father and a role model for his two sons. They should be very proud of their dad, as he gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting our community.”

Outside the police north precinct Saturday in downtown Everett, hundreds stopped by to pay their respects to the fallen officer. A sea of bouquets, ribbons and stickers covered a patrol car.

People left dozens of notes in cards set up on a table:

“Thank you for your service, Daniel. We’ll hold it from here.”

“On behalf of the northwest neighborhood, thank you for your service. A very sad time.”

“R.I.P. and godspeed.”

Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Zac Marlek spent time at the gathering Saturday. He said he heard of Rocha’s death Friday while attending the funeral for another law enforcement officer, Pierce County sheriff’s deputy Dominique “Dom” Calata, 35. Calata died March 16 after he was shot in a SWAT team standoff in Spanaway.

“While we were there, before we even got the full mourning process over, we were getting wind of this tragedy,” Marlek said.

Marlek did not know Rocha personally.

“There’s definitely a shadow,” deputy Marlek said. “It’s so fresh right now … it’s so close to home. I do feel like everybody in law enforcement is family. It’s going to take a healing process, and it’s going to take some time.”

An Everett police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said she worked alongside Rocha the past few years. The officer spent much of her day watching flowers pile up outside the north precinct building.

“It’s helpful to have all the support,” she said. “The community has helped a lot.”

An image of Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha is displayed at his memorial Saturday in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

An image of Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha is displayed at his memorial Saturday in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Everett police officer Kerby Duncan said many of those who were close with Rocha were taking time to process the loss and be with family.

“He was a great man,” Duncan said, “and he was very committed. He really had a heart for service.”

Taylor Martin, 23, also attended the gathering. She said she has family who works at the Everett Police Department.

“This is heartbreaking,” she said. “What we need to do right now as a community is support each other.”

Rocha had tried to contact a man in a Starbucks parking lot around 2 p.m. Friday due to “suspicious activity,” according to the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team. In an altercation, the man fired several shots and killed the officer. He then got into a Mini Cooper and ran over Rocha as he fled the scene.

Minutes later about 2½ miles away, the Mini Cooper collided in a three-vehicle crash that left a white van rolled over on its side at Rucker Avenue and 35th Street.

Police arrested the suspect, Richard James Rotter, 50, of Kennewick. He did not suffer any serious injuries. He was booked into the Snohomish County Jail around 1:30 a.m. Saturday for investigation of first-degree murder of a police officer with a gun and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Richard Rotter

Richard Rotter

Records show Rotter has a long felony history, including for fleeing police.

He had been convicted of a drug offense in Snohomish County in 1992. The rest of his criminal history in the state has ties to Franklin and Benton counties, with felony charges spanning from 1988 to 2019, along with several cases filed in juvenile court in the 1980s. Many of those were related to drugs.

He had been found guilty of attempting to elude police three times in the past decade: in 2013, 2016 and 2019. In the most recent case, a Franklin County judge sentenced him to one year and a day in prison.

As a felon, Rotter was not allowed to have a firearm.

Bail had not been set for the suspect as of Saturday. It was unclear if he had an attorney, or if one had been assigned to him.

SMART, a cadre of detectives assigned to investigate police use of force, was still determining exactly what led up to the shooting.

Rocha was a regular at the Starbucks where he died, one employee said. The coffee shop was shuttered Saturday with a sign that said “temporarily closed.”

Bouquets, candles and American flags were spread out beneath a tree and shrubs outside the Starbucks. And in front, a framed photo of the fallen officer sat on the sidewalk.

The last Everett police officer killed in the line of duty was Brian DiBucci, who crashed and fell about 100 feet off the U.S. 2 trestle in 1999 while acting as backup in a police pursuit. DiBucci had served Everett for about 1½ years.

As police chased the suspect Friday, EvCC went into a brief lockdown. WSU Everett closed.

Everett Community College released a statement Saturday, reading in part:

“At the time of his death, he was working to prevent danger near the doorsteps of two of our student housing buildings with hundreds of EvCC students and employees inside. We are grateful for his protection, and we stand with Officer Rocha’s wife, two sons, extended family and his fellow officers in their grief. From the entire Trojan Nation, our hearts are with you. Our college honors your service and remembers your sacrifice. Flags at EvCC have been lowered to half-mast in your memory.”

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said his office grieved with Rocha’s family and loved ones, as well as his colleagues in law enforcement.

“We are ardently committed to providing the full measure of justice that is possible through the criminal legal system to Officer Rocha’s family and loved ones,” Cornell said. “Attorneys from my office have been working diligently with SMART investigators since the early hours of the investigation and will continue to do so. I anticipate the filing of formal charges by my office against the suspect in the coming days. And to that end, consistent with the diligence and fortitude undertaken in all cases like this, the unwavering commitment of time, talent and resources from the prosecution team from now until the conclusion of the case.”

Around the county and the state, police departments changed their profile pictures on social media to Rocha’s name, badge and badge number.

Early Saturday morning, dozens of local law enforcement officials joined in a motorcade for Rocha, as his body was transported to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Rocha was born in Santa Barbara, California and grew up in Las Vegas. He and his family moved to Everett in 2011. Outside of work, Rocha enjoyed spending time with family outdoors and watching football and the Seattle Sounders. He was formally sworn in May 1, 2019.

Sandra Kramer, of Everett, wrote in an email to The Daily Herald that Rocha’s death broke her heart. She never met him in person, she wrote, but she talked with him on the phone when somebody stole potted geraniums from her yard. Rocha found her geraniums and she got them back, Kramer wrote.

“It’s the small things in life that can make a big difference,” Kramer wrote. “What Officer Rocha did was care about his community and the people that live here. He went that extra mile for some stolen plants.”

A date for Rocha’s memorial service had not been announced as of Saturday.

Herald writer Caleb Hutton contributed to this report.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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