Jury deliberations begin in the trial against man accused of killing Everett officer
EVERETT, Wash. - Jury deliberations started in the murder trial against Richard Rotter, who has been charged in the 2022 murder of Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha.
State prosecutors and defense attorneys finished closing arguments Friday afternoon at the Snohomish County Courthouse.
Rotter was charged with several counts including premeditated murder.
The biggest question for the jury was to determine if Rotter intended to kill Rocha. Prosecutors believed he did intend to kill Rocha, stating Rotter shot him five times, with three of the shots directly in the head. However, defense attorneys argued his mental health and drug intoxication that fateful day impacted his decision to shoot.
"It is time that he is held accountable for the violence that he committed on March 25, 2022," said Craig Matheson, Snohomish County senior deputy prosecuting attorney.
"We’re not here to dispute whether Mr. Rotter killed Officer Rocha on that terrible day in that Starbucks parking lot," said Natalie Tarantino, Rotter’s defense attorney.
Rocha’s body camera was a key piece of evidence in the trial, as it showed most of the deadly encounter. On March 25, 2022, Rocha’s body camera showed him waiting on a coffee order inside a Starbucks in Everett. The video showed Rocha noticing Rotter moving guns between two cars in the parking lot. Rocha, in full uniform, went outside to approach Rotter in the parking lot.
At least three videos, including from the body camera, were shown to the jury. The videos showed Rotter trying to fight off Rocha from detainment and keep his right hand free, which he ultimately used to grab a gun from a holster under his left arm and shot Rocha five times.
"Last few seconds of Officer Rocha’s life is spent telling the defendant ‘give me your arm, give me your arm.’ And how vigorously the defendant resisted that effort so he could take that right hand, access the weapon that was underneath his left armpit and draw that weapon," said Matheson.
From the time Rocha approached Rotter to the time Rotter fired the gun, their interaction lasted eight minutes. After the deadly shots, cameras captured Rotter getting in one of his cars, running over Rocha’s body, and driving away.
State prosecutors said investigators found guns, several rounds of bullets and illegal drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamine, with Rotter. Matheson said the evidence proved Rotter, a suspected drug dealer from the Tri-Cities area, intentionally pulled the trigger.
"If he didn’t premeditate the murder when he lied and concealed the gun, he certainly premeditated that murder of Dan Rocha when he put his hand on the handle of that weapon. And he withdrew that weapon and he put that weapon into the officer’s trunk and he pulled the trigger, when he shot a second round it went through his shoulder. And then when he placed the gun against the left side of his head and he squeezed that trigger three more times," said Matheson.
As state prosecutors asked the jury to convict Rotter of premeditated murder, defense attorneys argued there was no proof of intention.
"Any evidence that Mr. Rotter was not ok is belittled or called hogwash. But the evidence is undisputed about his mental health issues and how they interacted that day and how they impacted what happened," said Tarantino.
The defense attorney reminded the jury about the testimony of Rotter’s mental health diagnosis of PTSD, brain injury and illegal drug intoxication on the day in question.
"It is when there is a physical struggle—that is when the stress of that event develops that the mental health issues you heard about take over. There was no plan, there was no moment in time to think and decide what to do. It was reactionary and fast and impulsive, which are just the symptoms of his mental health disorders," said Tarantino.
Rotter’s mental health wasn’t the only thing his defense asked the jury to consider when determining his level of intent.
"Let’s be honest, the law enforcement community wants you to treat this as a perfect case. They want you to convict him of aggravated murder. It’s not a subtle pressure here, it’s a real pressure. But pressure is not evidence," said Tarantino.
If convicted of premeditated murder, Rotter could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. If not, the jury could still find him guilty on the other lesser charges. Jury deliberations were scheduled to continue Monday morning.