Opening statements in trial of man accused of shooting, blinding officer

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- Opening statements began in Skagit County in the long-awaited trial of Ernesto Rivas.

Rivas is accused of shooting Mount Vernon police officer Mike McClaughry after a standoff back in 2016. McClaughry was shot in the head and permanently blinded.

Rivas is charged with two counts of attempted murder and four counts of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. In opening statements, prosecutors painted the shooting as an unprovoked attack.

“Officer McClaughry says 'Ernie we just want to talk to you.' He turns away – he’s looking down – and while he’s looking there… he’s shot,” said a member of the prosecution.

Meanwhile, the defense blamed the shooting on gang members who were with Rivas. Back in December 2017, Q13's Jamie Tompkins spent some time with McClaughry at his Mount Vernon home.

He told her he couldn’t remember much from that night. He showed her how he’s adapted since losing his vision.

And here’s part of what he said back then about the challenges he faces:

“I will share with you that there was more than one moment where I needed to go quietly somewhere, there`s no one else around, and you just cry. You don`t have a choice in that, you have to let that go, because if you don`t get that out of your system you can’t go forward."

McClaughry officially retired from the police department in December 2017 and over the years we’ve seen him at a number of community events and fundraisers. He has a Facebook page so the community can keep up with him.