Prosecutors to seek retrial for ex-Phoenix officer

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by Brian Skoloff, Associated Press

Video report by Mike Watkiss

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 6:29 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 8:30 AM

PHOENIX (AP) -- Authorities plan to seek a retrial of a former Phoenix police officer convicted last month of aggravated assault after the jury failed to reach verdicts on charges of second-degree murder and animal cruelty, a prosecutor said Friday.

Richard Chrisman was charged after he fatally shot Danny Rodriguez, 28, and the man's pit bull, Junior, during an October 2010 domestic violence call.

Chrisman's partner said the man wasn't a threat when Chrisman shot him twice in the chest. Chrisman, however, said he only fired his weapon after Rodriguez tried to attack him, and pepper spray and stun guns failed to subdue him.

Jurors deliberated for about four days before finding him guilty of aggravated assault for pressing his gun to the victim's head when the man questioned the officer about entering his home without a warrant.

Sentencing for the assault conviction was delayed Friday until Nov. 22.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez told the judge his office planned to retry Chrisman on the murder and animal cruelty charges.

The case came down to two versions of events, one provided by Chrisman and an opposite story from his partner, Officer Sergio Virgillo, who also responded to the scene.

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 encounter.

He said he and Virgillo received permission from the suspect's mother to enter their trailer and speak with Rodriguez. He said the man refused to let them in at first, but Chrisman eventually entered and got into an altercation with him after he refused to come outside to speak with officers.

Chrisman also testified the man's pit bull became aggressive, at one point lunging toward him, forcing him to shoot the dog twice.

Virgillo told jurors 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 denied the allegations. Virgillo also said the suspect was backing away and was no longer a threat when Chrisman opened fire.

Chrisman, a nine-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, accused Virgillo 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.

Chrisman was fired about five months after the shooting.

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