EVERETT — Officer Dan Rocha’s stepfather, Mike Lee, wore bright red sneakers as he walked up to the podium Monday at Angel of the Winds Arena. He wore the shoes for a reason.
Rocha was a sneaker “aficionado,” Lee said. When his stepson was in high school, Lee realized they wore the same size shoe. Rocha would buy a new pair of sneakers, wear them for a little while, get tired of them and then put them away.
The red sneakers arrived the day after Rocha died.
“So I wear them now,” Lee said.
“I see in his son, Harrison, his impish grin and laughter,” Lee told the crowd, as many of the grieving officers wiped away tears. “I see in his son, Thomas, a quest for adventure and discovery. I see in his loving wife, a perfect match, a great mom and just plain fun.”
Lee fought tears as he finished his speech.
“As a parent, my first reaction when I heard about Dan was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “On further reflection, I knew that Dan would say he was in the perfect place at the perfect time to do what he does: serve and protect, and make a better world for his kids. My heart is crushed, but I’m a proud dad.”
Rocha, 41, a father of two sons, joined the Everett Police Department as a parking enforcement officer in 2017. He was later promoted to patrol officer. He worked in north Everett.
Rocha was shot to death around 2 p.m. March 25, when he confronted a man at the Starbucks at 1010 N. Broadway. The shooter fled in a car. Minutes later, after a three-vehicle crash over 2 miles away, police arrested the suspect, Richard James Rotter, 50, of Kennewick. Rotter was in Snohomish County Jail with bail set at $5 million.
People lined the streets to watch a police motorcade from Everett Mall Way to the arena around 11 a.m. Monday.
In the crowd near the arena was Bill Root. He served in the Army as part of Operation Desert Storm. The Woodinville man stood along Hewitt Avenue in his army fatigues. And as the hearse carrying Rocha’s body passed, just before noon, Root saluted. He said the news of Rocha’s death horrified him.
“There’s nothing more noble than laying down your life for your fellow man,” Root said.
An American flag was draped between two Everett Fire Department ladder trucks at the intersection of Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues.
As pallbearers carried Rocha’s casket into the arena, dozens of local law enforcement saluted, like Root. Many members of Rocha’s family followed.
The 1 p.m. service was open to the public. Police from departments around the country — including New York City; Fort Worth, Texas; and others — joined the audience. Many in attendance came from neighboring cities, like Arlington Fire Chief Dave Kraski.
“This gentleman was responding to what seemed like an ordinary call,” Kraski said. “You just never know what’s going to happen.”
At the start of the memorial, officers who worked closely with Rocha added a fourth golden streamer to the Everett Police Department flag. The streamers bear the names of officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
“Dan was a true hero who sacrificed his own personal safety to protect others,” said Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman, who shared memories and stories. “He will be missed, but never forgotten. I’ll make this promise to you: We will all be here — all 250 members of the Everett Police Department and their families — to stand by you, to support you and to love you as we walk this difficult road together.”
Templeman said he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support Everett police have received. In the past 10 days, the police chief has heard dozens of stories about how respectful and human Rocha was to everyone he encountered.
Templeman shared a story about a woman who was arrested by Rocha for a relatively minor assault. After being at the jail for over an hour, the woman was shocked to see Rocha return and approach her, Templeman said.
“Dan said he had been thinking about her situation and what happened,” the chief said. “He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep that night knowing she was in jail. So he went to his supervisor and obtained approval to issue a citation instead of booking her into jail.”
Templeman said the woman’s story exemplified who Rocha was: He did what was right and saw people for who they were and where they were, regardless of their situation.
“Becoming a police officer meant everything to Dan. He was built for a life of service,” Templeman said. “When you think about community policing and what it means to be a true community police officer, you think of Dan. … Dan was never afraid to show anyone the man behind the badge — the husband, the father, the son — because he was proud of who he was and what he stood for.”
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said she had struggled to find the right words.
“This tragedy has shaken our community to its core,” she said.
Sheila Woods came from Camano Island for the memorial. She said it hit home since her daughter is a police officer in Florida. She wanted to show support for both the Everett Police Department and Rocha’s family.
“When tragedy hits, it hurts as a mother,” she said.
As the memorial wrapped up, the sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” reverberated through the arena.
Rocha’s call number was 214. The voice of a police dispatcher sounded over the intercom.
“214 status,” a woman said. “Out of service. Gone but not forgotten.”
“Daniel (Dan) Rocha was born July 6, 1980, in Santa Barbara, California to parents Charlie and Melanie Rocha. When Dan was 4, his mother re-married to Mike Lee, who quickly became Dan’s second dad. Dan grew up in Las Vegas, and from a very young age, took interest in sports to include soccer, ice hockey and high school football. Dan was lucky to be coached by both his dad’s growing up. It was through sports and family that Dan learned the importance of discipline, teamwork and standing up for others. As a defenseman in hockey, Dan was not only good on his skates, but also presented a looming presence to opposing players who may have even had a thought about picking a fight with any of his younger, smaller teammates. From a very young age Dan was a protector.
“Dan graduated from Durango High School in 1998 and attended college at UNLV. Dan then went to work at the MGM Grand Hotels, which is where he first met the love of his life, Kelli. Kelli and Dan began dating in 2002, and a few short years later were married in 2005. They welcomed their first son, Thomas, into their lives in 2010, and were blessed with the arrival of their second son, Harrison in 2012. As a close-knit family, Dan, Kelli and the boys did everything together and treasured the time they were able to spend with one another.
“Looking for a break from the heat and a new community in which they wanted to raise their beautiful young family, Dan and Kelli moved to Everett in 2011, settling into a neighborhood in north Everett, where they quickly became part of the fabric of the Everett community. However, several years later, due in part to Dan’s love for nature, trees and water, he moved his family to the Stanwood area in 2017.
“Not long after their arrival in Everett Dan went to work for Fred Meyer, landing a job at the Casino Road store as an assistant manager. Dan enjoyed meeting and talking with customers and co-workers and his easygoing, relaxed personality presented an open invitation for anyone to strike up a conversation with him.
“Dan aspired to do something that mattered in this world and give back to his community. He first dipped his toe into public service when he was hired as a parking enforcement officer for the Everett Police Department in 2017. As a parking enforcement officer, Dan quickly established himself as a hard worker with outstanding public relations skills. Shortly after his arrival at the Everett Police Department, officers saw personality traits in Dan that they knew would make him a successful police officer, and they quickly began recruiting him to apply for a position as a fully commissioned officer.
“In 2018, Dan was hired as a police officer and was first assigned to patrol the same neighborhood that he had previously worked in while employed at Fred Meyer. While Dan was able to quickly reconnect with the neighborhood he had previously served, it was his ultimate goal to return to north Everett and patrol the streets that he once lived in after his family had arrived here in 2011. In 2020, Dan landed his dream assignment, as a dayshift patrol officer in north Everett. This is where Dan faithfully served his community up until his passing on March 25, 2022.
“Dan was a hero to his family, to the men and women of the Everett Police Department and to our entire community. He leaves behind his loving wife Kelli, son’s Thomas and Harrison, dads Charlie Rocha and Mike Lee, sisters Morgen Henry and Rae Ann Hismiogullari, sister-in-law Maggy Palos and brother in law Matt Nicholas, plus a large extended family who loved him dearly.”
On the day he passed, @EverettPolice Officer Dan Rocha was doing the job he loved – serving & protecting his community.
Tonight, I honored Officer Rocha's service & sacrifice on the House floor. pic.twitter.com/psmgjGLFik— Rep. Rick Larsen (@RepRickLarsen) April 5, 2022