EVERETT — A Tri-Cities man plans to plead guilty to shooting to death Everett police officer Dan Rocha, his defense attorney said in court Tuesday.
Richard Rotter, 50, was in Snohomish County Superior Court on Tuesday to be arraigned on one count of aggravated murder in the first degree. If convicted of that charge, he faces one possible sentence: life in prison without parole. He has also been charged with unlawful firearm possession and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or deliver.
In an unusual move, his attorney, Natalie Tarantino, said Rotter planned to enter a formal guilty plea next Monday morning.
“After consultation with counsel and review of germane discovery, Mr. Rotter wishes to enter pleas of guilty in all three counts,” said Tarantino via video from the Snohomish County Jail, where she sat next to her client.
Rotter appeared in an orange jail uniform. He bowed his head slightly and didn’t say a word in the brief hearing Tuesday afternoon. He will remain in the jail with no bail set.
Rocha, 41, a north Everett patrol officer, confronted Rotter outside a Starbucks on N. Broadway around 2 p.m. March 25, because he appeared to be moving guns between two vehicles in the parking lot, according to charging papers filed last week.
After a brief conversation caught on Rocha’s body-worn camera, the two men scuffled. Rotter opened fire, killing the officer in front of multiple witnesses, the charges say.
The defendant then sped away from the scene in a dark blue Mini Cooper. He was arrested about 2½ miles away after crashing into two other vehicles.
Rocha joined the Everett Police Department in 2017, starting as a parking enforcement officer. Later he was promoted to patrol officer.
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 the Angel of the Winds Arena in downtown Everett.
“Dan was a true hero who sacrificed his own personal safety to protect others,” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said at the April 4 memorial. “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.”
In an interview before Tuesday’s court hearing, Templeman said the community’s “pretty remarkable” response to Rocha’s death has helped members of the department mourn. He said he received hundreds of cards, emails and phone calls from around the country.
A spokesperson for the Everett Police Department declined to comment after the hearing as the criminal case is not yet complete. Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell declined to comment for the same reason.
“I don’t have anything to say because nothing’s happened yet,” he said.
Court records show Rotter has an extensive criminal history in the state — including 12 prior felony convictions — from the 1980s to 2019, mostly in Benton and Franklin counties. Many of those cases were related to drugs. His only felony conviction in Snohomish County was for a controlled substance violation in 1992.
He was also found guilty of attempting to elude police three times in the past decade: in 2013, 2016 and 2019.
In the weeks before Rocha’s shooting, Rotter told at least two people he never wanted to go back to prison, according to court documents.
Herald writer Ellen Dennis contributed to this report.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.