After several delays, the high stakes first-degree murder trial of Brian Fitch officially got underway Thursday morning in St. Cloud, Minn. Fitch is accused of killing Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick during a routine traffic stop on July 30, 2014.
Squad car video played in court
The two videos run about 12 minutes.
In one, we watch from inside Officer Patrick's vehicle as he initiates the traffic stop at 12:20 p.m. on July 30. There is no audio as he picks up his radio to presumably call in the information about the Pontiac Grand Am he is about to pull over.
The second camera is pointing at the suspect vehicle. In that video, the veteran officer is seen taking a few steps towards the pulled over car, when all of a sudden, three loud pops and flashes comes from the driver's window. Officer Patrick drops to the ground dead. The suspect car then speeds off.
NOTE: The video attached to this story has been edited for sensitivity. It shows the traffic stop, approach to the suspect's vehicle and a portion of the radio traffic following the shooting.
The Patrick family was in court Thursday and had seen the graphic squad video before it was played for the jury. The judge ordered a 10-minute recess immediately afterward so everyone could collect themselves.
Prosecution: Fitch planned getaway to Wisconsin cabin
In opening statements, prosecutor Rick Dusterhoft laid out the state's case, arguing there is indisputable evidence that Fitch is the gunman, even though he isn't ever seen on the squad video.
Dusterhoft said there are acquaintances of Fitch who will testify they saw the defendant with a gun after the shooting, and that he told them if anyone asked to say he was on his way to Canada. In fact, Dusterhoft said Fitch was instead planning a getaway to a cabin in Wisconsin.Witnesses can't 100 percent identify Fitch as shooter
Witness testimony on Thursday focused on several witnesses in and around the intersection of Dodd Road and Smith Avenue in West St. Paul, where Officer Patrick was shot three times and killed.
Prosecutors have said none of their eyewitnesses could 100 percent identify Brian Fitch as the shooter, and that was clear in court. One person testified that they thought the gunman behind the wheel was Mexican because of their dark skin. Another thought they saw a second person in the fleeing Pontiac Grand Am. Others testified that the suspect was in his teens or early 20s with sandy, blonde hair.
Fitch is 40, with a shaved bald head.
Defense attorney mentions 'Serial' podcast
Defense attorney Lauri Traub made a big deal out of that fact in her opening statement to the jury. Traub used her opening statement to attack the forensic gun evidence and the state's timeline of events on July 30. She argued that the timeline doesn't add up -- that the state decided from the very beginning that her client was the shooter, and then law enforcement worked backward to try and prove he did it.
Traub pointed to the wildly popular Serial podcast where an NPR reporter digs into an old Baltimore murder and wonders if in the end, the wrong person was convicted. She asked the jury to find Brian Fitch not guilty after listening closely and critically to all the evidence and testimony.