Phoenix cop accused of murder pleads not guilty

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on October 21, 2010 at 7:52 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 21 at 5:14 PM

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix police officer indicted on a charge of second-degree murder pleaded not guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court Thursday morning.

Richard Chrisman also entered not guilty pleas to additional charges of aggravated assault and animal cruelty.

Also before the court this morning was a request to increase Chrisman's bail, which was initially set at $150,000. That amount was set before the second-degree murder charge was filed. The judge declined the request to increase, leaving the bond at the previously set amount.

The charges and today's court appearance stemmed from an incident on Oct. 5.

Elvira Fernandez called 911 regarding a domestic dispute with her adult son, Daniel Rodriguez.

According to court documents, Chrisman held a gun to Rodriguez' head when the 29-year-old refused to let officers into his South Phoenix trailer.

After a brief struggle, Chrisman allegedly shot the family dog, and then shooting and killing Rodriguez as he was trying to leave. Rodriguez was not armed.

Chrisman's attorney is arguing that the shooting was justified because Rodriguez, who has also been shot with a Taser and hit with pepper spray, was an imminent threat.

Officer Sergio Virgillo, who was with Chrisman at the time of the incident, said Rodriguez was not posing any threat when he was shot.

Chrisman's attorney said the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has not talked to Chrisman about the shooting and is relying only on Virgillo's account of what happened that afternoon.

This is not the first time Chrisman's integrity has been questioned.

According to police records, Chrisman and another officer were accused of planting a crack pipe on a woman during an arrest in 2005. The incident was caught on a video surveillance camera. It was determined that the officers did this as a joke in an apparent attempt to provoke a reaction from the woman.

As he was leaving court, Chrisman's attorney said only that the truth would come out eventually.

Chrisman remains free on bond. His initial pretrial conference was scheduled for Dec. 6.

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