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Updated Sep 4, 2013 - 4:56 pm

Ex-Phoenix officer concludes murder trial testimony

PHOENIX — A former Phoenix police officer charged with murder and animal
cruelty acknowledged Wednesday under intense cross-examination that he was the
aggressor in the early stages of a domestic violence call before he shot and
killed a man and his dog, but he noted it was his job to try to restrain a
resisting suspect.

Richard Chrisman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated
assault and animal cruelty charges. He maintains the October 2010 shootings of
Daniel Rodriguez, 29, and his pit bull, Junior, were justified because Rodriguez
reached for the officer’s gun during a tussle and tried to attack him with a

Authorities say Chrisman abused his police powers by killing an unarmed man who
posed no threat to officers. He was fired from the Phoenix Police Department
about five months after the shooting.

On Chrisman’s second day of testimony before a Phoenix jury, prosecutor Juan
Martinez aggressively questioned the former officer’s recollection of the
shooting while accusing him of fabricating key elements of the case.

“Do you have problems with your memory about this very significant incident?”
Martinez snapped.

“It was three years ago, and I don’t remember everything about it,” Chrisman

“He never touched you, did he?” Martinez asked pointedly.

“Yes, he did,” Chrisman responded.

“And when he tries to get away from you a second time, you’re the one who
escalates the situation when you pulled your gun?” Martinez asked.

“I pulled out my gun, yes,” Chrisman said.

“I don’t get to run away,” the former officer later explained. “My job is
not to run away from criminals who don’t want to be apprehended.”

Later, Martinez emphasized loudly that Chrisman’s “job is not to kill

The prosecutor also accused Chrisman of shooting in haste instead of holstering
his weapon and trying to physically stop the man from wielding the bicycle.

“You had time to holster your gun, didn’t you?” Martinez said.

“No, I did not,” replied Chrisman, who concluded his testimony Wednesday

On Tuesday, Chrisman detailed for jurors how he and another officer arrived at
the scene and made contact with a woman who had called authorities to report
that her son, Rodriguez, had become violent. Chrisman said he learned before
arriving that Rodriguez had a criminal history of drug use and weapons offenses,
which elevated his awareness of what he sensed could become a dangerous

Chrisman said he and another officer received permission from the suspect’s
mother to enter their trailer, but Rodriguez refused to let them in at first.
Chrisman eventually entered the home, and got into an altercation with the man
as he refused to come outside to speak with officers.

Meanwhile, Chrisman testified, the man’s pit bull was becoming aggressive, at
one point lunging toward him, leading Chrisman to shoot the dog twice.

Amid tears, Chrisman explained how pepper spray and his stun gun failed to stop
the suspect’s aggressive behavior and screaming as the two then struggled, and
Rodriguez picked up a bicycle from the living room floor.

“He was going to smash my brains in. … I fired two rounds, center mass,”
Chrisman said.

Rodriguez died at the scene.

Martinez has accused Chrisman of manipulating the scene, lying about when he
arrived and not following protocol.

Chrisman’s testimony has run counter to that of the other officer who was at
the scene. That officer previously told jurors that Chrisman was on a tear the
moment he got to Rodriguez’s door, then pulled out his gun and pressed it to the
suspect’s head. Chrisman has denied the allegations. The other officer also told
jurors the suspect was backing away and was no longer a threat when Chrisman
opened fire.

Chrisman has accused the officer of not being there to help with the struggling
suspect inside the trailer, and at one point, even taking a personal call on his
cellphone during the incident.

Opening statements in Chrisman’s trial began in early August.


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