Medical bill adds up for suspect in Rifle shootout

Taxpayers are paying nearly $1,000 a day for the health care of a Garfield County Jail inmate who was arrested after he was wounded in a shootout with Rifle police.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said care for Phillip Amonette is averaging $950 a day. The care is being provided under a contract with a private firm above and beyond the jail’s existing medical contract with a care provider.

“We’re hoping as his health improves, the need for this service will decrease and eventually go away,” Vallario said in an e-mail.

Police allege that on Oct. 22, Amonette, 53, shot a Rifle officer who was responding to a domestic violence call in Rifle. The bullet struck the upper-left chest area of the officer’s protective vest, knocking him to the floor.

A second responding officer shot Amonette several times.

Amonette was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction and remained unresponsive and on life support for at least five days after the incident.

He stayed at the hospital until being transferred to the jail in mid-December and making his first court appearance.

There, he appeared in a wheelchair, with his neck in a brace, an arm in a sling and a bandage on the back of his head. He had to be wheeled closer to a judge in order to hear him.

Vallario said the Sheriff’s Department also split the cost with Rifle police for a security firm to guard Amonette while he was at St. Mary’s. The cost was $18,175 for the county. Rifle paid $27,000.

Vallario said bills related to Amonette’s hospital stay and surgeries in Grand Junction were his responsibility. The Sheriff’s Department handled the shooting investigation because of the police involvement in it.

Vallario said that investigation has been turned over to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He said results of some evidentiary matters are pending from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Prosecutors are expected to review the case soon for a conclusion about the officer’s role in the shooting as well as for criminal prosecution of Amonette, Vallario said.

The two Rifle officers, whose names authorities haven’t released, have resumed active duty, based on Rifle police Chief Daryl Meisner’s own investigation and the initial results of the sheriff investigation.

Amonette faces charges including first-degree attempted murder after deliberation, use of a deadly weapon, and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon against a peace officer.


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