Suspect on mend, charged with attempted murder of Rifle officer

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A man who barely survived a shootout with a Rifle police officer made his first court appearance Tuesday, nearly two months after the incident occurred.

Through a public defender, Phillip Amonette, 53, who was in a wheelchair, waived his right to be advised of the charges against him, and he didn’t immediately request any change to the $1 million bond set in the case.

Meanwhile, deputy district attorney Tony Hershey told Garfield County Court Judge Paul Metzger the two Rifle officers involved in the incident want Amonette held with no bond.

Prosecutors have filed charges against Amonette that include first-degree attempted murder after deliberation, use of a deadly weapon, and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon against a peace officer. They also plan to add a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.

Investigators allege that Amonette shot a Rifle officer with a large-caliber revolver Oct. 22 just after the officer and a second one responded to a domestic-violence call at a Whiteriver Avenue U-Haul outlet, where Amonette and his girlfriend were living. Amonette held up the gun and ignored the officer’s order to drop it before shooting, police allege.

The bullet struck the upper-left chest area of the officer’s protective vest and apparently his cell phone, according to a recently released Garfield County Sheriff’s Department arrest affidavit. It also left a red welt on the chest of the officer, who was knocked to the floor.

The second responding officer fired five shots at Amonette, who was struck “a number of times,” authorities say.

The affidavit said Amonette underwent multiple surgeries at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction after having suffered “extremely life-threatening injuries.”

Five days after the incident, Amonette was unresponsive and on life support. By Nov. 4, he was making limited body movements in response to commands, and four days after that he was accurately answering some basic questions but also thought it was October and that he was “currently in Mexico,” the affidavit said.

Amonette was released from St. Mary’s Hospital on Monday and transferred to Garfield County Jail.

A security firm guarded Amonette while he was hospitalized, at a total cost to the city of Rifle of $27,052, Police Chief Daryl Meisner said.

The two officers, whose names authorities have not released, have been moved from administrative duty back to active duty, based on Meisner’s own investigation and initial results of an independent, ongoing Sheriff’s Department investigation.

Amonette appeared in court with his neck in a brace, one arm in a sling, the other arm handcuffed to his wheelchair, and a bandage on the back of his head. He had to be wheeled closer to Metzger in order to hear him.

The affidavit said methamphetamine paraphernalia was found in the living quarters in the U-Haul building.

Amonette is due back in court Jan. 11.


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