Prosecutor: Shooting by officer not self-defense

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- The fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a now-fired Phoenix police officer wasn't self-defense despite his claims that he feared for his life, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez said during his closing argument at Richard Chrisman's murder trial that the officer was the aggressor in the October 2010 incident.

Chrisman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault and animal cruelty. He maintains that the shootings of 29-year-old Daniel Rodriguez and his pit bull were justified because Rodriguez reached for the officer's gun. Chrisman testified last week that he feared Rodriguez was going to "smash my brains in."

Martinez said the evidence doesn't show Rodriguez was assaulting the officer. He said Chrisman shot Rodriguez's "friendly" dog after the animal wagged his tail at him, and that the officer failed to try to talk to Rodriguez.

Martinez also said Chrisman put a gun to Rodriguez's head and later shot him for no reason.

"A person cannot take out a gun, point it at someone and then when that person steps back, shoot them," Martinez told jurors.

Defense attorneys give their closings Monday afternoon, and jurors could begin deliberations at the end of the day.

The nine-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department last week detailed for jurors how he and another officer arrived at the scene and made contact with the woman who had called authorities to report that her son, Rodriguez, had become violent. Chrisman said she was frightened and excited.

"She was crying, shaking," Chrisman testified last week. "She told us that her son, Danny, goes out, he leaves the house for several days at a time. When he comes home, he gets real violent and angry and starts destroying stuff and hurts her."

Martinez asked jurors to listen again to the 911 call of the mother and ask for themselves if she sounded either excited or hysterical. They'll conclude that's not true, he said, and she would not have been even more excited when Chrisman and another officer arrived.

Authorities say Chrisman used unnecessary excessive force after Rodriguez questioned the right of the two officers to be inside the trailer. They say Chrisman put the muzzle of his pistol to Rodriguez's temple and said he didn't need a warrant.

Chrisman denies putting his gun to Rodriguez's head.

His partner told investigators the dog wasn't attacking either officer, but Chrisman says it was an imminent threat. Rodriguez died at the scene after Chrisman says he was preparing to perform CPR, but it was too late.

Chrisman was fired from the department about five months after the shooting. Opening statements in his trial began in early August.

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