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Phoenix police officer pleads not guilty to murder

A Phoenix police officer pleaded not guilty Thursday to a second-degree murder charge for the on-duty shooting death of an unarmed suspect, whose father called the lawman an "evil cop."

Officer Richard Chrisman, 36, was arraigned in Maricopa County Superior Court. He is also charged with aggravated assault and animal cruelty.

On Oct. 5, Chrisman pulled his pistol, put it against Danny Frank Rodriguez's head and told him he didn't need a warrant when Rodriguez ordered him out of his house, according to court documents. During the next few minutes, Chrisman shocked Rodriguez with a stun gun, fatally shot his pit bull, then fatally shot Rodriguez, the documents say.

Records show another officer who responded to the scene, Officer Sergio Virgillo, told investigators he saw no reason for Chrisman to shoot the dog or Rodriguez.

Rodriguez's father, Frank Rodriguez, said outside the courthouse Thursday that he wants justice for his son.

"My son shouldn't be in the grave," he told The Associated Press. "There's good cops, there's bad cops, but he's just an evil cop."

Chrisman's attorney, Craig Mehrens, said that his client's actions were "more than justified" and that Chrisman never put his gun against Rodriguez's head.

"His partner, to put it politely, is grossly mistaken," Mehrens said. "I'm not going to go into details except to say he clearly had a right to do what he was doing."

He said Virgillo's claim that Rodriguez was not a threat is odd.

Virgillo "shot him with his Taser himself — that's pretty high up on the force continuum," Mehrens said.

Chrisman did not speak during Thursday's hearing and declined to talk to members of the media as they followed him outside the courthouse.

Chrisman and Virgillo were called to a Phoenix trailer house by Rodriguez's mother, who told officers she had been arguing with her son, that he had damaged property inside the trailer and that she left because she was afraid he would hurt her.

Court records show the officers had trouble controlling Rodriguez, with both firing their stun guns on him to little effect. Chrisman then used pepper spray on Rodriguez and shot his pit bull, Virgillo told investigators.

Rodriguez told officers he was leaving with his bicycle but Virgillo moved to block the door, and Chrisman began struggling with Rodriguez over the handlebars, records show.

Chrisman then pulled out his handgun and shot Rodriguez more than once, according to court documents. He died at the scene.

Chrisman was arrested about five hours after the shooting and freed on $150,000 bail the following day.

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