ELKO, Nev. -- During the search for a man accused of shooting a Nevada sheriff's deputy the suspect called a family member and left a chilling voice mail, "I shot a couple of cops. Goodbye."
Testimony continued Tuesday at the preliminary hearing for Peter Mark Coca, who has been charged with attempting to kill seven law enforcement officers during a shootout with police in Wells on Feb. 24.
Senior Judge Barbara Nethery ruled Tuesday that Coca will stand trial on charges including attempted murder, domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon.
"We are surprised and disappointed by the ruling," said Mark Guralnick, Coca's lead defense lawyer.
Guralnick, in an email to The Associated Press, said his client "never formed an intent to murder anyone, and we earnestly do not believe there is probable cause to sustain any of the attempted murder charges."
Prosecutors at the hearing in Elko County Justice Court on Monday played a recording of one of the messages they say the 43-year-old Coca left for his stepmother while he was the target of a dayslong manhunt that led to his surrender: "I'm not going to make it tonight. Tell my boys I love them. I just found out Tracie's been cheating on me. I shot a couple of cops. Goodbye."
Elko County Sheriff's Deputy Lenwood VanNatter was the only officer injured in the shootout. VanNatter suffered a critical injury after being shot in the chest. He would be dead if not for his bulletproof vest, officials have said. Also, VanNatter was hit in the hip, thigh, groin and lower leg.
Sheriff's Lt. Marvin Morton testified Monday that Coca admitted he shot at officers and thought he'd killed a deputy.
Morton testified that Coca made multiple phone calls to family and police during the manhunt. In one, he said Coca told him he would not surrender and was going to die shooting it out with police.
Morton said Coca wouldn't back down, even after being assured the deputy had survived.
"I won't go back now," Morton recalled Coca saying. "I've shot two of your officers and probably killed one. This is the way we'll end this."
Guralnick suggested during his line of questioning of officers during cross-examination on Monday that someone besides Coca may have been involved in the shooting.
Sgt. Kelly Stuehling of the Nevada Division of Investigations and sheriff's Sgt. Adrienne Brensel both testified a person aimed a green laser light at them and fired rounds the night of the standoff. They said they had no doubt he was trying to kill them.
"I was running for my life," Brensel said.
Stuehling later testified he saw the laser near Brensel as he heard shots being fired.
For his part, Guralnick referred to the low visibility that night several times and pressed each officer specifically about whether they could tell for a fact Coca was alone on the property when they contacted him, the Elko Daily Free Press reported.
Coca surrendered to U.S. marshals without incident on Feb. 26 near his home in Wells where the assault began two nights earlier as officers responded to a reported domestic dispute.
The rural town of Wells sits on U.S. Interstate 80 about 60 miles west of the Nevada-Utah line.
Coca was waiting on the roof with a high-powered rifle and laser scope when deputies and state troopers arrived, investigators said. They said he fired at least 20 shots at the officers -- who returned fire -- and hit VanNatter five times before escaping.
During earlier testimony on Monday, VanNatter had revealed for the first time that an unidentified person had approached the property in a pickup truck just before he was shot. The deputy said he was illuminated by the truck's lights when it pulled up behind him and did not immediately leave when he ordered the driver to turn it around.
Prosecutors said the shooter apparently used that opportunity to see VanNatter and aim for his chest.
Efforts to reach Guralnick for further comment on Tuesday were not immediately successful.
Coca's wife, 39-year-old Tracie Ann Coca, has been charged in a separate pending case of helping her husband elude officers after the shooting.
Information from: Elko Daily Free Press, http://www.elkodaily.com