Former Phoenix police officer, Richard Chrisman, who was convicted of aggravated assault in September pled guilty this week to manslaughter to avoid a retrial on charges the jury could not reach a verdict on.  The retrial had been set for January.

The officer had been charged with second-degree murder and animal cruelty for an incident 3 years ago.  The case was essentially two opposing accounts between Chrisman, who said he followed all protocols, and his partner, who said he murdered the man.  Under the plea deal, Chrisman pled guilty to the lesser offense of manslaughter and faces 7 to 14 years in prison.  The animal cruelty charge was dropped.  Sentencing for the assault conviction and the manslaughter charge is set for Dec. 20.  He faces 5 to 15 years for the assault charge, but according to the deal, both sentences will run concurrently.

Chrisman was charged after he shot and killed Danny Rodriguez, 28, and the man’s pit bull during an October 2010 domestic violence call.  Chrisman described the scene as chaotic.  He testified during the trial that his partner was not properly backing him up and was afraid.  He said he had to shoot the pit bull because his partner would not help and the dog lunged at him.  Chrisman told the jury that he tried to pepper spray and stun gun Rodriguez, but it did not work and the two got into a struggle.  That’s when Chrisman said Rodriguez tried to throw a bicycle at him.

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

Chrisman also told the jury that he learned before arriving that Rodriguez had a criminal history of drug use and weapons offenses, which elevated his awareness that the situation could be dangerous.  Prosecutor Juan Martinez said Chrisman was reckless and had no reason to shoot Rodriguez.  The defense argued that if Martinez were to be believed, a nine-year veteran of the force who had never fired his gun would have had to decide “today’s the day” and chose Rodriguez as his victim.

The case came down to two versions of events, Chrisman’s and his partner, Officer Sergio Virgillo’s.  Virgillo told jurors a completely different story than Chrisman.  He said that Chrisman was on a rampage the moment he arrived at the trailer.  Chrisman pulled his gun out and pressed it to Rodriguez’s head right after arriving.  Virgillo also told the jury that Rodriguez was not attacking Chrisman and was not a threat when Chrisman shot him twice.

The prosecution defended Virgillo asking the jury why a police officer would lie about his partner knowing that if he opposed his partner he would be blackballed from police work?


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