Feathered Bastard

Richard Chrisman Report Released by Phoenix Police Department: Read It Here

The Phoenix Police Department report on the October 5 shooting of Daniel Rodriguez by Officer Richard Chrisman was released today. And there's plenty in it for both sides in this tragedy to make hay out of.

Several officers relate that Chrisman, who has since been indicted on a second degree murder charge in relation to the incident, told them Rodriguez went for his gun, forcing him to shoot Rodriguez. 

(Note: There's a link to the report after the jump.)

But Chrisman's legal counsel at the time, Kathryn Baillie (a lawyer for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the Phoenix police union), refused to allow PPD investigators to interview Chrisman following his arrest for aggravated assault.

Chrisman's current attorney Craig Mehrens has contended that the record will eventually show that Rodriguez was armed. Technically, you could say he was. There was a sheathed knife in his right back pants pocket. One never brandished.

Other than that, the only other item that could be considered a weapon was Rodriguez's bicycle, which he was trying to leave with after struggling with Chrisman.

Did Rodriguez use the bicycle as a weapon? Not according to officer Sergio Virgillo, who has alleged Rodriguez was a threat to neither cop, and that Chrisman shot Rodriguez and Rodriguez's dog for no apparent reason.

(You can read the PPD's report yourself, here.)

According to Virgillo's interview at the scene, shortly after he and Chrisman responded to the 911 call placed by Rodriguez's mother Elvira Fernandez, things spun quickly out of control. 

Rodriguez challenged the cops' entry into the trailer. That's when Chrisman allegedly put a gun to Rodriguez's temple, telling Rodriguez they didn't need a warrant, calling Rodriguez a "motherfucker."

A struggle ensued with Rodriguez resisting. According to Virgillo, Rodriguez was pepper sprayed and Tased three times: twice by Chrisman, once with probes and the other time touch-Tased with Rodriguez on the ground; and once by Virgillo.

The Tasings, however, had little impact on Rodriguez, who tore out the probes and got up after each episode.

Chrisman then allegedly shot Rodriguez's dog, which had been barking, but did not attack Chrisman, according to the account. This angered Rodriguez, who then tried to leave the trailer.

"Officer Chrisman shoots the dog," Virgillo told homicide detective Kenneth Porter and deputy County Attorney Jim Keppel, who was also present. "Then Daniel getting upset, having a verbal argument with officer Chrisman about, `Hey, why did you have to shoot my dog?!' And that went on for probably five seconds...At that time I saw officer Chrisman take out his service weapon and...he shot Daniel."

Virgillo said he couldn't remember if Chrisman holstered his weapon between shooting the dog and shooting Rodriguez. He said the bicycle was between Chrisman and Rodriguez when Rodriguez was shot, and that Rodriguez didn't try to use the bicycle against Chrisman.

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

Virgillo told Porter and Keppel that he felt, "This is the worst day of my life."

Keppel, a former superior court judge, asked Virgillo why he felt that way.

"Because it was wrong," he said, "And I also felt that I'm getting sucked into something. That now officer Chrisman's in this trailer. He's going hands on, I cannot leave. Everything is happening so fast. the spray, the Tase...uhm, Daniel walking back. The dog...uhm, and it just, it just wasn't good."

Chrisman and Virgillo did not know each other well. They had never ridden together, but they had responded to the same calls previously.

When pressed, Virgillo recalled one domestic violence call, where a couple had been arguing, and the aggressor had not been established.

Chrisman told one of the parties involved,

"See this face?...Does this look like the face of sympathy to you?"

Ironically, Rodriguez's mother told officer Jose Cisneros that the trailer was hers, but that it was in her son's name. That means Chrisman and Virgillo were attempting to get Rodriguez to leave his own property.

Fernandez admitted that Rodriguez had been violent towards her in the past, and that he'd tried to "choke" her once. She also stated that Rodriguez had been using drugs, though she said she'd never seen him actually use drugs, and didn't know what kind.

"He's been doing [drugs] since he and his girlfriend broke up," said Fernandez. "Which was in March. I noticed changes in him...you know. You're a parent. You can tell."

Fernandez also stated that she had called the police in the past when Rodriguez turned violent, and the cops had convinced him to leave each time. On the day Rodriguez was shot,  they had argued, and he had thrown something at her, making a hole in the wall. She told Cisneros that, "I was afraid for my life."

But she didn't expect that her son would end up dead, just that the cops would get him to leave.

"I let the devil come in my house and kill my son," said Fernandez, crying.

I have no doubt that Chrisman's junkyard law dog Craig Mehrens will parse this police report to death, as is his duty as a defense lawyer. Statements will be taken out of context. And facts will be bent. After all, Mehrens has already moved to send the case back to the grand jury. (The judge's decision on that motion is pending.)

But overall, the report is not good for Chrisman, no matter what PLEA or Mehrens say. Chrisman deserves his day in court. But arguing that this matter should not go to trial, as Mehrens and PLEA are doing, is completely ludicrous. 

Read the report for yourself. There's more than enough probable cause for Chrisman's indictment. That doesn't make him guilty. A jury of his peers will have to handle that.

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