LONGMONT, Colo. - It was a surprising plea from a man accused of firing 23 rounds from his assault rifle at a Longmont police officer.
Jonathan Shank pleaded guilty on Friday to three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault.
Investigators say Officer Brent Cairns was on routine patrol when he observed a silver 2008 Subaru Legacy traveling eastbound, without headlights, on Ken Pratt Boulevard, at 2 a.m. on May 22, 2013.
The officer activated his overhead lights and Shank pulled into a nearby parking lot, driving over a curb and onto a sidewalk.
"Jonathan exited the vehicle with an AR-15 loaded with a 40-round magazine and began firing on the officer almost immediately," said Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur.
Cairns, using his cruiser as a shield, returned fire, hitting Shank at least three times.
"He shot the officer's car to pieces," Satur said. "Fortunately… Cairns was not hit."
The suspect dropped his rifle on the ground after he was struck by the officer’s return fire.
The weapon was clearly visible as Airtracker7 flew over the scene.
Afterwards, investigators removed two cases of ammunition and other items from Shank’s house.
When asked what may have motivated Shank to fire at Cairns, Satur replied, "I think we need to wait for sentencing on that and let that come out at sentencing."
Affidavit: Suspect's mom says Shanks was anxious about gun rights
According to the arrest affidavit obtained by 7NEWS, Shank's mother told police that her son admitted he was drinking too much alcohol and needed help dealing with anxiety.
Deborah Shank said Jonathan "watches YouTube all day long at work and then comes home and watches YouTube and the news."
She said, "He worries constantly about what the government is doing and believes the government is diminishing rights and the world is on a downward spiral."
According to the affidavit, Shank's mother told police that "Jonathan believes stringently in the right to bear arms and was closely following a gun rights rally to be held in Washington D.C. She said it "apparently weighed on his mind more than she realized."
Satur said Shank is a very dangerous individual.
"He put the community at risk and we're very fortunate that our officer performed so well that day," he said.
Satur said one of the things that helped is that Cairns had been trained earlier for that exact scenario.
"We think it helped him to at least have an idea in his mind," Satur said. "It’s always better to learn it in training than to try to learn it under fire."
Police say Shank's blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit for driving under the influence.
Prosecutors say Shank could face up to 128 years in prison.
"It depends on aggravating factors and whether the judge sentences him concurrently or consecutively," said Catherine Olguin of the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office.
Sentencing is set for June 6.
7NEWS previously reported that Shank has a minor criminal history from an arrest in October 2007 for DUI, careless driving, driving without proof of insurance and driving without a license.
Officer Cairns is now working at the Denver Police Department.
"They're lucky to have him," Satur said. It's their gain and our loss."