- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A man charged with fatally shooting a tribal police officer in metro Phoenix made a profane comment about officers earlier that night during a conversation about a fellow gang member who had been killed by police, a prosecutor said Wednesday in opening statements at the man’s trial.

Prosecutor Thomas Simon said Elijah Loren Arthur opened fire on Salt River police Officer Jair Cabrera during a late-night traffic stop at a gas station on the outskirts of Phoenix during May 2014. A dashboard video played for jurors shows a gunman shooting Cabrera before the officer could get out of his truck.

“As Jair put his vehicle into park, he had little opportunity to act to what was about to happen next,” Simon said.

Jon Sands, an attorney for Arthur, said his client did in fact kill the officer but didn’t do so with cold calculation, as alleged by prosecutors.

Sands said his client’s ability to act reasonably and control his emotions was diminished on the night of the shooting because he was under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine.

“You will hold Arthur accountable, but it won’t be for premeditation,” Sands said.

Another man, Joey Michael Thomas, has previously pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder in Cabrera’s death. Thomas has acknowledged supplying the rifle used in the shooting and driving the car used in the attack.

Arthur looked away from the jury as attorneys on both sides made opening statements to jurors.

Some tribal officers who were in court and watched the dashboard video of the attack wiped tears away from their eyes.

The 37-year-old officer was killed as he was pulling over Thomas’ car in drunken-driving patrols on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community during Memorial Day weekend.

Authorities said Arthur later acknowledged firing two shots but claimed he was aiming at gas pumps and didn’t intend to shoot the officer.

Simon said Arthur and another member of the East Side Bloods gang who was a passenger in the car when it was pulled over had a conversation earlier that night about a gang associate who was killed during an encounter with a tribal officer.

The prosecutor, who didn’t provide any details on that encounter, said the other gang member will testify that Arthur made a derogatory comment about police officers during that conversation.

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