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Man accused of killing Everett officer changes course to plead not guilty

Richard Rotter had previously told the court that he intended to plead guilty to shooting and killing Officer Dan Rocha.

EVERETT, Wash. — Richard Rotter, the 50-year-old man accused of shooting and killing Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha in March, officially entered a not guilty plea on Monday morning.

The not guilty plea comes just days after Rotter told the court that he wanted to plead guilty to all three charges, which include aggravated first-degree murder with a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture.

The guilty plea was not entered, however, and Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis said the plea could be entered on Monday.

It is unclear why Rotter changed his mind to plead not guilty.

"Accordingly, we will continue to prepare for trial and we will prosecute this horrific crime professionally, responsibly and with vigor," said Chief of Staff for the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office Michael Held. 

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The charges allege Rotter shot Rocha at point-blank range on March 25 after the officer saw him moving firearms from one vehicle to another in a Starbucks parking lot.

Rocha learned from dispatch that Rotter had outstanding warrants, and Rotter told Rocha that he was a convicted felon.

When Rocha tried to take Rotter into custody, Rotter fought back. Court documents indicate that bodycam footage and witness video captures Rotter shooting Rocha in the head three times and then running Rocha’s body over with a vehicle before fleeing the scene.

Everett police found Rotter and took him into custody following a chase that ended when Rotter crashed his vehicle.

A judge ruled that Rotter be held without bail after the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office argued he is a danger to the community.

He has 13 felony convictions dating back to 1985 for crimes such as burglary, assault and drug possession. Additionally, Rotter has 43 misdemeanor convictions.

A trial date was set for May 27. 

If Rotter is convicted on all three counts, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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