Officer's murder trial begins with emotion

May 18, 2010 3:16:04 PM PDT
It was an emotional day in court for the family of a Houston police officer who was killed during an undercover sting a year ago. Tuesday was the first day of testimony in the trial of two people who police say were targeted in the sting. Prosecutors told the jury that they will play the audio recording from the shootout where Officer Henry Canales was killed. But they began their case by painting a picture of the emotional events that unfolded in 2009.

Family members of Officer Canales said nothing outside the courtroom. But his widow and children were overcome with emotion during the opening statements in the trials of Xiomara Mendez-Rosales and Andres Nava-Maldonado. Both are charged with murder in the death of Officer Canales during a reverse sting operation last June.

Houston Police Union spokesperson Gary Blankenship said, "Four people chose to engage in criminal conduct that night by going to buy stolen property, and it resulted in the death of an undercover police officer. If somebody thinks they're not responsible, they're very wrong."

The first witness on the stand was Lieutenant David Sauer. He was part of the operation the night Officer Canales was shot and killed. In court, Lt. Sauer recalled the moment he heard gunfire.

He testified, "There was just an automatic gunfire. Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! At that time, you are wondering if someone was using an automatic weapon or they were firing simultaneously."

But during cross examination, the defense asked, "Would be fair to say that at the time the gunshots take place, you didn't see them take place?"

"Correct," answered Lt. Sauer.

Defense attorneys say they plan to emphasize that no matter how tragic the death of Officer Canales is, neither defendant pulled the trigger and the man who killed Officer Canales is dead.

"He never once anticipated this was going to happen," defense attorney Casey Keirnan said. "As a matter of fact, he didn't shoot Officer Canales."

Police say Roberto Carrillo fatally shot Officer Canales, and another officer then shot and killed Carrillo.

Nava Maldonado and Mendez Rosales are charged with felony murder and engaging in organized criminal activity. The trial is expected to last one to two weeks.


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