Zachary Sullivan was found guilty of one count of attempt to commit murder Tuesday after a week-long trial and approximately five hours of jury deliberations.
The jury determined Sullivan, 31, pointed a gun at two local law officers in the early hours of March 19, 2011 on County Road 25 south of Cortez. He was gunned down by officers and has since recovered from his injuries.
In closing statements, 22nd Judicial District Attorney Russell Wasley argued Sullivan turned and walked away from Cortez Police Officer Dallas Coker to give himself time to remove a handgun from his clothing, pull back the slide, then turned around and pointed the gun at Coker with his finger on the trigger.
The gun was later found on scene and determined to be jammed with a partially chambered round. Further, a box of ammunition and clip compatible with the gun were found in the defendant's clothing.
Sullivan was on probation at the time and knew he would be found in violation of his probation, Wasley said.
“This kind of desperation produced a desperate decision,” Wasley said.
Sullivan was shot multiple times by Coker and Montezuma County Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Spencer. Both officers said they were in fear for their lives.
Representing Sullivan, Attorney John Baxter argued Coker saw Sullivan's teardrop tattoo, and overreacted.
“Zach has done nothing aggressive. They think they saw something and they shoot,” he said.
In an interview after the shooting, Coker said he was told a teardrop tattoo means the individual has killed someone.
Fingerprint and DNA tests on the weapon were deemed inconclusive.
In addition to one count of attempted second degree murder, Sullivan was also found guilty of two counts of menacing, two counts of assault, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer.
In previous hearings, Coker testified that he responded in the early hours of March 19 to a report of an intoxicated pedestrian in the roadway. After locating Sullivan walking on the side of the road, Coker said he asked the man for his name and date of birth.
After the man's hand lingered in his pocket after putting his phone away, Coker said he requested Sullivan submit to a pat-down search for officer safety. Coker said Sullivan then walked away, turned and pointed a gun at him.
Coker and Spencer opened fire on the man. He was airlifted to Denver where he was treated and released for multiple gunshot wounds.
Officers involved in the shooting have been cleared of charges following an investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the 22nd Judicial District Attorney.
In prior hearings, the right of Coker to stop and search the defendant was called into question by Baxter, but was upheld by Chief Judge Douglas Walker. However, Walker did rule parts of the search warrants issued in the case were overreaching and threw out some of the evidence seized.
Sullivan was also found guilty of two counts of menacing with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault, resisting arrest and obstructing a law officer.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Sullivan has prior convictions for robbery, criminal mischief and smuggling contraband into prison.
Sullivan remains in the custody of the Montezuma County Detention Center.
A habitual offender hearing is set for 9 a.m. June 27, at which point Wasley said Sullivan's sentence could be enhanced by the judge to approximately 48 to 144 years.
Reach Reid Wright at [email protected]