Former Phoenix police officer Richard Chrisman. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A former Phoenix police officer charged with murder and animal cruelty in the on-duty killing of a man and his dog during a domestic violence call has taken the witness stand in his trial.
Prosecutors said Richard Chrisman abused his police powers when he fatally shot 29-year-old Daniel Rodriguez in October 2010. Their key witness was fellow police Officer Sergio Virgillo, who responded to the call with Chrisman.
Virgillo testified early in the trial that Rodriguez or the dog posed no threat to either officer and that Chrisman escalated the situation and shot and killed Rodriguez for no reason.
Chrisman, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault and animal cruelty charges, maintains the shooting was justified because Rodriguez reached for the officer's gun two separate times during a tussle that preceded the shooting.
The nine-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department was on the stand all day Tuesday. He explained how he responded to the call with Virgillo but how he believed for most of the five-minute encounter with Rodriguez, Virgillo was outside the mobile home.
Chrisman told jurors he believed the pit bull inside the cramped mobile home was going to attack him and he had to shoot him for his own safety. He also detailed for jurors how he tried to subdue Rodriguez, first with physical holds, then with pepper spray and then with his stun gun. Chrisman said none of those methods worked.
Wiping away tears on several occasions, Chrisman was visibly shaken and upset when he recalled the moment he shot Rodriguez.
Chrisman said after he was forced to shoot the dog, an already agitated and uncooperative Rodriguez became out of control. Fighting tears, Chrisman said Rodriguez tried to grab at his gun two times before then grabbing a bicycle. Chrisman said Rodriguez lifted the bike up and he believed he was going to use it as a weapon.
Defense attorney Patrick Gann asked Chrisman what he believed Rodriguez was going to do with the bike. Chrisman replied, "That he's going to smash my brains in."
Chrisman said he raised his gun and fired two rounds at Rodriguez, hitting him in the chest.
During cross examination, Prosecutor Juan Martinez tried to discredit Chrisman's account of what happened, attacking his memory, his truthfulness and his credibility.
Cross examination continues Wednesday morning.
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