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Man sentenced nearly 100 years for shooting a Colorado police officer in the head

Sgt. Christopher Pelton was released from the hospital on 12/27/19.  Sgt. Pelton is pictured...
Sgt. Christopher Pelton was released from the hospital on 12/27/19. Sgt. Pelton is pictured in the middle. He was headed home less than a month after he was shot in the face while in the line of duty. Photo courtesy Fort Lupton PD. (KKTV)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 12:48 PM MDT|Updated: May. 13, 2022 at 12:53 PM MDT
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GREELEY, Colo. (KKTV) - A man will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars for shooting a Colorado police officer in the face.

The ambush-style shooting was carried out in Dec. of 2019 in Fort Lupton. Fort Lupton Police Sgt. Christopher Pelton was among the officers called to a home after a man threatened to harm his ex-girlfriend and then himself. As part of his job, Sgt. Pelton was asked to put his own life on the line for a complete stranger. Sgt. Pelton was shot in the face by Matthew Cotter and rushed to the hospital. Read more about the shooting by clicking here. Cotter also shot at Sgt. Jeremy Sagner.

Cotter was sentenced to 96 years in prison Thursday morning.

“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.”

Despite the sentence, both of Sgt. Pelton’s daughter said they now suffer from fear and anxiety.

Sgt. 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.”

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.”

Sgt. Pelton was honored with a purple heart and continues to recover.

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