Feathered Bastard

Richard Chrisman, Daniel Rodriguez's Autopsy Report, and PLEA's Spin

As a follow-up to my colleague James King's recent blog item on Daniel Rodriguez's autopsy report and the fact that meth was found in his system, I'm posting the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's findings, here.

One thing to keep in mind, a fact some seem to be conveniently forgetting: the cause of Daniel's death on October 5 was not meth. It was two bullets fired from the gun of Phoenix police officer Richard Chrisman.

The spin has already begun over at the Web site for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the union representing the Phoenix Police Department's rank and file.

Rodriguez, 29, was "high on methamphetamine." And according to PLEA, the amount of meth and amphetamines in Rodriguez's system indicates "a multiple day `binge'" that would have "likely left the suspect volatile and aggressive."

So, you know, Rodriguez deserved to die.

What about the dog, for whom there's no toxicology report, as is the case with Chrisman?

"Medical reports also indicate that the dog that acted in a threatening manner and was ultimately shot, weighed 49.5 lbs," PLEA reports.

Hmmm, almost 50 pounds, eh? Not exactly a bichon frise. But no mastiff either. Not by a long shot.

How does PLEA know that the pooch "acted in a threatening manner"? According to Officer Sergio Virgillo, the other cop on hand that day, the dog was in no way a danger to the two officers.

"The dog wasn't lunging," Virgillo told investigators, according to the police report on the shooting. "It was by the Television set in the home, barking."

Virgillo stated that Rodriguez did not sic the dog on them. And Chrisman did not try to Tase the dog or pepper spray it. He just shot and killed it.

The necropsy on the dog backs up Virgillo's account. The medical examiner found two gunshot wounds on the dog: at the left ear, and on the dog's torso.

Following this, after Chrisman and Rodriguez struggled some more, Chrisman shot and killed Rodriguez. They had been struggling before the dog was killed, and Rodriguez had been pepper sprayed, and Tased twice.

Rodriguez was trying to leave the dwelling with his bicycle when he was killed. Rodriguez's mother later told investigators that the South Phoenix trailer home they lived in was actually in Rodriguez's name.

Since PLEA is so interested in the dog's weight, it's worth noting Rodriguez's. According to the autopsy, Rodriguez weighed 141 pounds, and was five feet, six inches tall.

Did meth turn Rodriguez into the Incredible Hulk?

Two Phoenix police officers, trained in hand-to-hand combat, were not able to subdue him, though he was unarmed. (Yeah, there was a sheathed knife in his right back pants pocket. But it was never brandished.)

Virgillo explained to investigators that, "From what I can remember, when I saw Officer Chrisman raise his gun in front of him, I believe Daniel took a step back and put his hands up."

Also Virgillo stated that he felt the use of deadly force was unnecessary. And there's the incident described by Virgillo as the two cops entered the home in response to a 911 call from Rodriguez's mother. 

Rodriguez reportedly told the cops they didn't have the right to come into his home without a warrant. Virgillo said that Chrisman put his gun to Rodriguez's head and told him, "Yes, we do, motherfucker."

As far as Chrisman goes, there's the fact he's on the Brady List, the blacklist for bad cops, for planting a crack pipe on a homeless woman. And he's being investigated by the Phoenix PD for his alleged involvement in the South Mountain off-duty pay scandal.

That aside, he deserves his day in court and is innocent until proven guilty of the second degree murder charge hanging over his head. A jury must decide whether or not the use of force was justified, whether Virgillo's account is credible, and how big of a factor the meth in Rodriguez's system was.

Just remember, the jury gets to make that call. Not the axe-grinders at the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons