Mayor blames "guns" for actions of violent career criminal let loose by courts

(AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

A not-so-funny thing has been happening in Washington State over the past few years. Whether through referendums or legislation, the state keeps putting more gun control laws in place, and yet the violent crime rate just keeps getting worse. Major employers like Amazon are now telling employees it’s too dangerous to work in downtown Seattle, and media outlets are trying to reassure residents that while things may be bad now, things have been worse in the past.

I’m not sure how reassuring that is, given that things can also continue to get worse in the future. I’d argue, in fact, that as long as politicians are content to blame the growing lawlessness on “guns” and not, say, on the prosecutors and judges who are routinely releasing violent criminals with little to no consequences for their crimes, thing are almost guaranteed to keep trending in the wrong direction.

Case in point? Everett, Washington Mayor Cassie Franklin, who used her state-of-the-city speech this week to blame the recent murder of an Everett police officer on a lack of gun control.

In her annual state-of-the-city speech Thursday, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin called on state and federal lawmakers to fix a “broken system” that let a felon allegedly have a firearm and kill an Everett police officer last week.

Public safety was a major part of the address that had to be rewritten after the fatal shooting of officer Dan Rocha.

… Congressional, judicial and legislative chambers must address an increase in violent crime in recent years, she said.

Franklin, now in her second term, first took office in 2018.

In an interview with The Daily Herald before the speech, Franklin said her first term was marked by a decrease in violent crime, after prior years saw an uptick in gang activity and firearms-related crimes. She credited that decline on the city’s policing efforts — giving away gun locks — and a law passed in 2018 that requires gun owners to notify police within 24 hours if their firearm is lost or stolen.

But it hasn’t been enough, she said.

“We need to care about gun violence as much as we care about trash, graffiti or tents on our sidewalks,” Franklin said Thursday.

It hasn’t been enough because none of those efforts are ever going to stop a violent criminal with murderous intentions. And despite Franklin’s emotional manipulation, it’s not a matter of not caring. I’m sure Cassie Franklin cares a lot about “gun violence.” That doesn’t mean that she has any good idea about how to actually combat it.

While Franklin took Congress, the state legislature, and judges to task for not doing more to criminalize our right to keep and bear arms, she neglected to mention one very important piece of information about the suspect accused of murdering Officer Dan Rocha; the courts and cops had plenty of experience with him before he allegedly gunned down the officer.

Richard Rotter, 50, has been charged with first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the death of Rocha, 41, He remained at the Snohomish County Jail in lieu of a $5 million bond.

The suspect’s criminal record in Washington state dates back to the late 1980s with many of his arrests linked to incidents that occurred in Benton and Franklin counties.

Law enforcement officials in the Tri-Cities area have a history with the suspect.

“Mr. Rotter has an extensive history here in the Tri-Cities,” said Kennewick police Commdr. Aaron Clem. “And our officers are familiar with him.”

Including the fatal encounter with Rocha, Rotter’s online record shows 51 previous arrests and 18 felonies.

Clem said that in the Tri-Cities alone, law enforcement agencies have tracked 350 “involvements” with Rotter over the last 25 years.

Dan Rocha wasn’t murdered because Washington doesn’t have enough gun control laws on the books. He’s dead because Washington State couldn’t keep a career violent criminal behind bars despite dozens of arrests and well over a dozen felony charges over the past two decades. This was a failure of the criminal justice system, and no new gun laws are going to fix a failing system that regularly spits out repeat offenders and returns them to the street with a slap on the wrist for their crimes.

Mayor Cassie Franklin should be ashamed of herself for using the death of Officer Rocha to try to stump for her anti-gun agenda, but we all know that’s not gonna happen. I’m still holding out hope, however, that Everett residents will show some well-deserved contempt for the mayor this November when they have the chance to vote in someone new and deny her another four years in office.