ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Following a mistrial in January, an Arizona man accused of shooting a New Mexico police officer during an I-40 traffic stop has now taken a plea deal in the 2020 case. Robert Benjamin Nelson pleaded guilty to two charges Wednesday, including attempted murder of a federal task force officer and using a gun during a violent crime.

Nelson, 31, shot New Mexico State Police Officer Sharron Duran twice during a traffic stop in September 2020. Nelson was pulled over in a white pickup truck on I-40 west of Albuquerque, near Laguna.

Years after the shooting, court documents filed Wednesday finally give a better indication of why Nelson opened fire on the officer. As part of his plea, Nelson said he was “concerned” and “scared” of the officer’s behavior in the events leading up to the shooting.

Prosecutors say the officer initially stopped Nelson for following his parents’ trailer too closely. Police video shows Nelson opened fire on the officer before she reached the passenger window of the truck. The gunfire sent shards of glass into Duran’s eyes and two other bullets hit the officer’s hands as she shielded her face, causing permanent injury according to prosecutors.

The officer returned fire as Nelson drove off from the stop. She pursued Nelson westbound on I-40 for roughly five miles before Nelson eventually gave up the chase and was arrested.

The guilty plea in Nelson’s case was entered in U.S. Federal Court Wednesday. The plea marks a significant change in the case, which went to trial in January. The court declared a mistrial in the case after the jury agreed it was “hopelessly deadlocked” on a verdict.

Nelson had originally argued self-defense in the case. Defense attorneys filed a motion in late 2021 demanding a background check on NMSP Officer Duran, who was commissioned as a federal drug task force at the time.

A narrative written in Nelson’s plea filing indicates Nelson thought the officer was “following” him “for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time” before the stop, something that “concerned” him. Nelson claims “the officer then pulled up next to me, parallel to my car, and drove next to my car or some time before dropped back behind my care and initiative her emergency equipment,” something that “scared” Nelson, and that he found to be “odd.”

According to the statement of facts in Nelson’s plea, he felt the officer took “an odd route from her car to the passenger side of” his truck. Nelson described seeing the officer walk all the way around the back of her car before going to the passenger side of his car.

Lastly, Nelson said he saw the officer “reach down and appear to grab her gun.” “I know now that she was doing a ‘pat check’ of her equipment, but at the time it appeared to me that she was getting ready to draw her gun and fire on me,” said Nelson in the plea agreement filing.

A judge has yet to sentence Nelson in the case. He faces between 10 to 30 years in prison under the terms of the plea agreement.

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