96-year sentence for man who shot Fort Lupton police officer

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GREELEY -- The man who shot a Fort Lupton Police Department sergeant two years ago drew a 96-year prison sentence.

Weld County District Court Judge Vincente Vigil sentenced 21-year-old Matthew Cotter last week after a jury convicted Cotter of ambushing and trying to kill two Fort Lupton police officers, Sgt. Christopher Pelton, who was shot in the face, and for shooting at Sgt. Jeremy Sagner. The two were injured during a call about an armed man who was trying to contact someone 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 the 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.”

According to a news release, both of Sgt. Pelton’s daughters made statements to the court and said they now suffer from fear and anxiety after their father almost died.

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

Sagner also addressed the court during the sentencing hearing. He said the impact from this incident has been felt throughout the department.

“It was not an accident,” 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 the judge to reflect on the seriousness of the crimes.

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

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.

Vigil made some remarks before he announced the sentence.

“This is really a unique situation,” he said, according to the news release. “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 Sgt. 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.”

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