PHOENIX — A prosecutor at the trial of a man charged with fatally shooting an Arizona police officer during a 2010 traffic stop and throwing tools from his truck during a high-speed chase that followed told jurors Wednesday that the slain officer never had a chance to pull out his handgun.
Defendant Christopher Redondo was so close to Lt. Eric Shuhandler during the traffic stop that gunpowder got embedded in the eyes of the Gilbert officer, prosecutor Juan Martinez told jurors during opening statements at Redondo's trial.
"The gun was still holstered," Martinez said.
Daniel Raynak, an attorney for Redondo, opted to make opening statements later in the trial, leading prosecutors to start calling witnesses.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Redondo, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges, wasn't in the courtroom during opening statements. He watched part of the trial from a nearby room at the courthouse using a live video feed before he was taken back to jail. It's unknown why Redondo wasn't in the courtroom.
Martinez didn't reveal a motive to jurors, but investigators said previously that Shuhandler, a 16-year police veteran, was shot as he walked from his patrol car back to Redondo's truck after learning that Redondo had an arrest warrant. Redondo's truck had been pulled over because it had a partially covered license plate.
Authorities say Redondo and Daimen Joseph Irizarry, who was driving Redondo's truck, fled after the shooting in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix.
Officers who responded to the shooting found Shuhandler gasping for breath. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. During the 50-mile chase, police say, Redondo leaned from the passenger-side window of the truck and fired two gunshots at a police vehicle on U.S. 60.
Redondo also is accused of climbing into his truck's bed and tossing wrenches, an air compressor tank and other objects at pursuing officers to get them to back off. The objects prompted some officers to pull over to the shoulder of the freeway, police said.
"He is disabling these vehicles," Martinez said. "Most of them are experiencing flat tires."
Redondo is accused of firing shots at officers again after the truck ran out of gas, and the chase ended in the mining community of Superior, about 65 miles (104 kilometers) southeast of downtown Phoenix.
Authorities said Redondo and Irizarry got out of the truck, and Redondo fired more shots at officers, who returned fire.
Redondo and Irizarry were both shot and survived.
Irizarry was taken into custody, but the wounded Redondo refused to surrender, so a police dog was sent to drag him toward officers.
Irizarry was sentenced to 107 years in prison for his convictions on drive-by shooting and aggravated assault charges.