A parolee and suspected gang member executed a man by gunning him down in the courtyard of a Desert Hot Springs apartment building, a prosecutor said Monday, while a defense attorney claimed that his client was the fall man for the real shooter, who remains at large.

Opening statements were delivered Monday morning in the murder trial of Eduardo Stultz, 25, of Cathedral City, who is accused of the Dec. 13, 2016 shooting of 37-year-old Coachella resident Johnny Rodrigues.

Rodrigues was shot three times in the back outside a Second Street apartment and later pronounced dead at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Along with murder, Stultz is charged with possession of a firearm, as well as sentence-enhancing gang and firearm use allegations.

According to court documents, witnesses said an argument broke out in the apartment’s courtyard between several men just prior to the 3 a.m. shooting.

Rodrigues “was unable to say who shot him and quickly went into cardiac arrest on scene,” the report says. But multiple witnesses identified Stultz, leading to his arrest at 9 that night near his home in the 28700 block of Landau Boulevard, according to Sgt. Gus Paiz.

Police are also seeking one other shooter who remains at large. Stultz’s attorney, Bosky Kathuria, said law enforcement and witnesses were pinning the murder on his client because they failed to catch their man.

“The gunman got away, so Stultz had to pay. That’s what this case is about,” said Kathuria, who described his client as “lower hanging fruit” for investigators to blame.

Stultz told investigators that he was at his sister’s home all day until the evening of Dec. 13, according to court documents. Deputy District Attorney Anthony Orlando said Stultz told police that no one could corroborate his presence at the home, because he was apparently alone until he departed his sister’s residence sometime around 4 p.m. However, Orlando said witnesses spotted him elsewhere in the city at around 7 a.m. that morning.

Stultz previously served three years in prison for possession of a controlled substance and attempting to evade a peace officer. He was released in September 2016.

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