Trial begins for truck driver accused of striking, killing Colorado State Patrol trooper

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- The prosecution and defense presented their opening statements to a jury Wednesday in the trial for a commercial truck driver accused of hitting and killing a Colorado State Patrol trooper in November 2016.

Investigators said Noe Gamez-Ruiz was driving northbound on Interstate 25 near Castle Rock in the far right lane when he hit and killed Colorado State Patrol trooper Cody Donahue.

Donahue was standing in the shoulder filling out a report for a crash he was assisting another trooper with when he was struck.

The prosecution argued Gamez-Ruiz should be found guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

In opening statements, the prosecution said Gamez-Ruiz let his truck drift to the right, striking Donahue.

The prosecution said Gamez-Ruiz is a seasoned commercial driver with 20 years of experience.

The prosecution said it was a clear, sunny day, so Donahue was clearly visible in his florescent traffic vest.

It also said every other commercial vehicle that passed Donahue had moved to the center lane, but Gamez-Ruiz remained in the right lane.

Gamez-Ruiz's attorney said it was a tragic accident, but it does not rise to the level of criminally negligent homicide.

The defense said Gamez-Ruiz was not distracted, drunk or high when he struck Donahue and said he was going at least 10 mph under the speed limit.

Defense attorneys further argued that portions of Donahue's body were inside the traffic lane because of his size and the way he was standing.

“It’s a terrible, tragic accident, but it’s that and nothing more," said Gamez-Ruiz's defense to the jury.

The first person to testify was the trooper working on investigating the crash with Donahue when he was struck.

Matt Normandin said he looked up to see Donahue looking at approaching traffic and then trying to press himself closer to the vehicle he was inspecting.

Then, Normandin said he watched Donahue get struck. He became emotional, recalling how he called out "officer down" into his radio.

A Douglas County Sheriff's Office deputy testified he was the first person to interview Gamez-Ruiz after the accident.

The body camera played in the courtroom showed Gamez-Ruiz cooperating and offering information about the crash.

The jury was shown video of the incident that was recorded in Gamez-Ruiz's truck as well as Donahue's dash camera.

The cab of Gamez-Ruiz's truck also contained a camera that records the driver, but a sun visor was obstructing the view at the time of the incident.

Gamez-Ruiz is being tried for criminally negligent homicide, careless driving resulting in death and failure to yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill in honor of Donahue that increases fines for drivers who do not move over for first responders.

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