Prosecutor: Ex-officer abused authority in killing

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- A former Phoenix police officer abused his authority when he shot and killed an unarmed man and his dog during a domestic dispute call because they weren't posing a threat to anyone's safety, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez told jurors during opening statements at the trial of Richard Chrisman that the defendant had put a pistol to the head of 29-year-old Daniel Rodriguez when he questioned the right of officers to enter the trailer he shared with his mother.

The prosecutor said Chrisman allowed the situation to escalate unnecessarily to the point to where he shot Rodriguez - even though the unarmed man posed no threat to officers and just wanted to go to his father's house.

"He decided to step over the line that day," Martinez said of Chrisman.

Chrisman's lead attorney, Craig Mehrens, was expected to make his opening statements later Wednesday.

Chrisman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault and animal cruelty in the October 2010 death of Rodriguez. Police were called to the trailer after Rodriguez got into an argument with his mother and knocked a hole in a wall of their home.

Chrisman maintains the shooting was justified because Rodriguez had reached for the officer's gun during a tussle. He denies putting his gun to Rodriguez's temple.

Authorities say Chrisman and another officer tried unsuccessfully to restrain Rodriguez by using their stun guns, but he removed the Taser probes on his chest.

Investigators also say Chrisman shot pepper spray into Rodriguez's eyes, drew his pistol a second time and shot the barking dog. Chrisman's partner told investigators the dog wasn't attacking either officer.

Another scuffle between Chrisman and Rodriguez began when he said he wanted to go to his father's house on his bicycle. Prosecutors say Chrisman drew his pistol again and shot Rodriguez in the chest from two to three feet away. Rodriguez fell to the ground and was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Chrisman, a nine-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, was fired about five months after the death.

The case rests in large part on conflicting accounts from Chrisman and Officer Sergio Virgillo - the only two people, except Rodriguez, inside the trailer to witness the confrontation.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.