Nelson Harvey
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Rifle, CO Colorado

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September 26, 2012
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Amonette gets 29 years in prison for assaulting Rifle police officer in 2010

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Phillip Amonette claims he didn't intend to harm Rifle police officer Garrett Duncan when he shot him in the chest during a domestic disturbance call in Rifle in late 2010, and he says he has no recollection of the incident.

On Tuesday, Garfield County District Court Judge James Boyd sentenced Amonette, 55, to 29 years in prison for the crime.

Boyd's sentence sits at the higher end of the mandatory 10- to 32-years sentencing guidelines require for first-degree assault on a police officer.

Amonette was convicted July 30 after a two-week jury trial, but acquitted of the more serious offense of attempted first-degree murder.

In front of a packed hearing room Tuesday, Boyd told Amonette that he created a "real concern in terms of community safety," when he fired on police officers after they responded to a 911 domestic dispute call placed by his girlfriend's daughter on the evening of Oct. 22, 2010.

The prosecution played an audio recording of the 2010 shooting captured by officers responding to the U-Haul outlet on White River Avenue in Rifle, where Amonette lived at the time with his girlfriend, Debra Melendrez.

In the recording, officers can be heard introducing themselves to Amonette after arriving at the scene. Amonette then yelled "No! No!" before apparently producing the gun, a .357 magnum revolver.

The officers urged Amonette repeatedly to drop the gun, then several shots rang out.

Testimony during the two-week trial established that Amonette fired first and Officer Dewey Ryan returned fire, hitting Amonette three times in the back and once in the chest.

Because Amonette's bullet struck the bulletproof vest Duncan was wearing and its impact was blunted by Duncan's cell phone, the officer was left with minor injuries.

"I do ask for mercy from the court, so I might get out in time to spend the last years of my life in freedom," Amonette read from a prepared statement just before the sentencing. He said ongoing physical ailments have plagued him since the shooting, and he doesn't expect to live a long life.

Amonette spent nearly two months in a coma following the incident, and has spent much of the ensuing two years in rehabilitation.

Officer Ryan urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence possible.

Amonette's daughter, Jeanelle Amonette, argued that "one mistake should not mean he should have to spend what will essentially be the rest of his life in prison."

Boyd granted Amonette nearly two years of time served, bringing his sentence closer to 27 years.

Officer Duncan didn't testify during the hearing. Standing in the courthouse hallway afterward, he said he was reassured by Judge Boyd's lengthy sentence.

"I feel better," Duncan said. "We weren't 100 percent happy with some of the decisions the jury made, but I just feel better."

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 26, 2012 06:39PM Published Sep 26, 2012 06:37PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.