Man sentenced to 96 years for shooting officer in face

Published on May 12, 2022

Matthew Cotter Web.jpg

GREELEY, Colo. (Weld County D.A.) – A Weld County district court judge handed down nearly a century in prison to a Lochbuie man who was convicted earlier this year of ambushing and attempting to murder two Fort Lupton police officers.

Matthew Cotter, 21, was sentenced Thursday morning to 96 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for shooting Sergeant Christopher Pelton in the face, and shooting at Sergeant Jeremy Sagner in December of 2019.

At the time of the ambush, Sergeants Pelton and Sagner were responding to a call about an armed man who was trying to make contact with a person inside a Fort Lupton home.

“I’m very fortunate that this was an attempted-murder case and not a murder case,” Sgt. Pelton said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing. “The moment that bullet went through my head, I wasn’t even there going after the defendant. I was there to protect the scene. If someone was going to get shot that day, I’m glad it was me and not one of my young officers.”

In tear filled statements to the court Thursday, both of Sergeant Pelton’s daughters said they now suffer from fear and anxiety after their father almost tragically died.

“The victimization doesn’t stop with me,” Sgt. Pelton explained. “It affects my whole family.”

Sergeant Sagner also addressed the court during the sentencing hearing and explained the impact this shooting has had on their entire police department.  

“It was not an accident,” Sgt. Sagner said. “He knew what he was doing. I believe Mr. Cotter is where he needs to be. Anything short of him remaining in custody for the maximum time is detrimental to the public.”

During his sentencing argument, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Pirraglia asked Judge Vincente Vigil to reflect on the seriousness of the crimes.

“How much closer can you get to killing someone,” Pirraglia asked. “The physical pain is one thing. But the mental pain, the anxiety, the stress, the trauma. It’s appalling what Sergeant Pelton and his family now have to live the rest of their lives with.”

Chief Deputy Pirraglia also read parts of letters from other officers who were at the scene after the shooting. In one letter, a female officer described how horrific the scene was, and described that even her wedding ring was stained with blood.

“I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of trauma and intense nightmares that these individuals now live with,” Chief Deputy Pirraglia said. “To have to recall these events time and time again when they go to sleep at night is just a sliver of the effects this shooting has had on other people.”

Before Judge Vigil imposed the 96-year sentence, he gave several remarks.

“This is really a unique situation,” he said. “While I was not there, I saw the videos. I heard the shots, saw the officer fall, heard just the most horrible gurgle that man omitted. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the gurgle of someone dying. It’s a shock to me that Sergeant Pelton is still alive. It’s only by luck that I even have sentence discretion here and that I’m not forced to impose a life without parole sentence today. I cannot send a message to the community that I love and have been a part of my whole life that this was acceptable behavior.”

Tagged as: