EVERETT — In a reversal, a Tri-Cities man decided to plead not guilty to aggravated first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Everett police officer Dan Rocha.
Richard Rotter, 50, had planned to enter a formal guilty plea, his attorney Natalie Tarantino, said at a court hearing last week.
But at a hearing Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court, Rotter apparently changed his mind. He entered three pleas of not guilty, for the murder charge as well as charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or deliver.
Rotter asked Judge Karen Moore if he could make a court record following his plea.
“I need to ask for a competency hearing, mental health and medical” evaluation, Rotter said.
Judge Moore told the defendant those motions needed to be made by his legal counsel.
Rocha, 41, a patrol officer, confronted Rotter outside a Starbucks on North Broadway around 2 p.m. March 25, because he appeared to be moving guns between two cars in the parking lot, according to charging papers filed earlier this month.
The officer turned on his body-worn camera, telling dispatch he was checking on “suspicious” circumstances. He asked for backup, and an Everett police sergeant radioed that he would be there soon from downtown Everett. In the meantime, Rocha approached Rotter. The full interaction was caught on camera, the charges say.
Rotter fought with the officer, then opened fire, shooting Rocha multiple times. The officer was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police arrested Rotter in Everett following a brief pursuit that ended in a three-vehicle crash. A .22-caliber rifle, ammunition and drugs were recovered from both vehicles associated with the suspect. A Glock 9 mm pistol was recovered from the scene of the shooting.
Everett police and Rocha’s family saw an outpouring of public support in the days and weeks after Rocha’s death. Thousands attended a memorial at Angel of the Winds Arena in downtown Everett.
A trial for Rotter was set to begin May 27.
Rotter remained in custody Monday at the Snohomish County Jail. He was being held on no bail.
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterellen.
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