A young Jacksonville man who ambushed and shot a Jacksonville police officer multiple times during a traffic stop in 2016 was sentenced to life behind bars Wednesday.
Kevin Rojas was smug in court when the officer called Rojas a coward and said he would have a tough time in prison. The officer then took out a tube of K-Y Jelly, a personal lubricant, and said: “You are going to need a lot of this.”
The officer, whom the Times-Union is not naming because of his work as an undercover officer, said “No comment” when questioned about the use of his prop after the 30-minute hearing in Circuit Judge James Daniel’s courtroom.
In March 2016, Rojas had fought with his girlfriend when he grabbed a gun, fired it a few times and suggested the day may be his last one, police said. He then took off in a car and began driving erratically.
That’s when the undercover officer who was taking his child to school decided to pull Rojas over on Collins Road near Roosevelt Boulevard, police said. When the officer took his eyes off Rojas momentarily, the 19-year-old began shooting through the windshield of the officer’s car. Three bullets hit the officer, including in the face. His son was not struck.
The officer fired back as Rojas ran away. He then stole a truck and raced back to his neighborhood, barricading himself inside his home after crashing the truck at a neighbor’s house. Rojas was shot after police officers said they saw him through the sliding-glass door pointing a gun at them. Rojas was shot in the torso, leg and hand.
In court the officer, a former Army soldier, called Rojas a coward.
“I will take those bullets instead of a fellow officer and an innocent bystander,” the officer said. “When I brought the fight back to you, you ran like a coward.”
The officer said his life was changed forever. Rojas, he told the judge, was a menace to everyone that day. Rojas declined to speak on his behalf nor have any character witnesses at his sentencing hearing. He was represented by Jason Gropper. The case was prosecuted by Bernie de la Rionda.
Rojas was found guilty by a jury in October on charges of attempted first-degree murder, attempted manslaughter, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, grand theft auto and fleeing.
Daniel sentenced him Wednesday to the maximum prison sentence for each of the crimes: life plus three 15-year sentences and two five-year sentences for the lesser charges.
Daniel told Rojas he struggled with the implication of what happened on that day nearly two years ago. He said he couldn’t comprehend how Rojas could arrive at the decision to begin firing with an intent to kill.
As Daniel sentenced the now 21-year-old to a lifetime behind bars he said, “I’m pretty sure Mr. Rojas doesn’t understand what the rest of his life means.”
Rojas’s family fled the courtroom in tears.