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On Oct. 6, 2010, Elvira Fernandez said she called the police to
teach her 29-year old son respect as he threw things at the wall of
her south Phoenix mobile home. Fifteen minutes later Danny Frank
Rodriquez, who was unarmed, was shot dead by one of the officers.

When 9-year veteran Phoenix police officer Richard Chrisman and another patrolman responded to Elvira Fernandez's domestic violence call on October 6 last year, she asked them to talk to her son and calm him down. Fernandez expected them to reason with her 29-year old son, Danny Rodriguez. Instead, 15-minutes later, he lay dead in a pool of his own blood. Also shot and killed was one of the family's dogs.

The other officer on the scene, Richard Virgillo, told detectives who investigated the shooting that Rodriquez was not armed nor did either officer face any serious threat of violence from him. In a press conference immediately after the shooting, Phoenix police chief Jack Harris and Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romney said they would seek additional charges if the autopsy and/or the sequence of events that led to the shooting reveals that Chrisman abused his authority.

When the two officers attempted to enter the mobile home, Rodriguez blocked them from entering without a warrant. Chrisman unholstered his weapon and pressed the muzzle against Rodriguez' s temple telling him "...I don't need a warrant."

Once inside, Chrisman holstered his weapon. At that point a scuffle broke out and the dog began to bark. Chrisman and Virgillo used a stun gun and pepper spray to subdue Rodriguez. Because the dog was still barking, Chrisman shot and killed it. Rodriguez attempted to leave the trailer with a bicycle he was pushing to the door. The struggle continued with police grappling with Rodriquez over the handle bars of the bike. As Rodriguez stood over his bicycle Chrisman, according to Virgillo, raised his gun and fired, point blank, at Rodriguez, killing him. Rodriguez died before EMTs arrived.

In their report, Chrisman and Virgillo described the pet as a pit bull. According to neighbors, it was a boxer puppy. Virgillo told investigators that while the dog barked incessantly, it never threatened the officers thus, there was no reason to shoot it. Chrisman was arrested at 7:30 p.m. that evening on a charge of aggravated assault.

Chrisman was placed on the "Brady List" in 2005. The Brady List came from the 1963 Brady v Maryland which found the defendant's right to due process is violated if prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence which either proves the innocence or casts doubt on the guilt of the accused. Included in the list are the names of police officers who destroy or "create" evidence to support their arrests and/or knowingly lie on the stand to get convictions for the prosecutors. Chrisman was caught planting drug paraphernalia on a suspect. Four hundred eighty-two police officers, including one FBI agent, are on the list. Of them, 254 are current or former Phoenix police officers. (Only 95 of them are still on the Phoenix police force.) Or rather, 94 since Chrisman, who has been on the list since 2005, was fired on March 23, 2011. Chrisman was charged with second degree murder on Oct. 15, 2010 but kept his badge for 6 months.

A month after he was fired, fellow police officers held a police hot dog and hamburger barbecue to raise money for Chrisman's defense fund. Chrisman still insists the shooting of an unarmed man was justified. While several members of the police union publicly defended Chrisman's actions, they feel raising money for him was wrong. The cops who are defending Chrisman argue that he is innocent until proven guilty. His unarmed victim, on the other hand—who was guilty of resisting a bully copy—and whose only crime was ticking off his mother, never had his day in court. He was adjudged guilty by Officer Chrisman who chose to be his executioner.

On March 18, Rodriguez's mother, Elvira Fernandez, who learned the sad lesson not to invite outsiders to a family feud too late, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Phoenix for $30 million. "I called police to come and calm my son down," she said. "I never expected them to come and kill my son...I hope no other mother, father, brother, sister, uncles, aunts, grandparents or friends of anyone else will have to go through this senseless loss of life and emotional pain."


Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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