Latino mom Elvira Fernandez (60) said she called police because she trusted them. She wanted to teach her son a lesson. Her son Danny was throwing some things at the wall of her south Phoenix home. She was concerned he might take some of his anger out on her. She went to a neighbor's house and dialed 911 so the police would calm him down. Now, as her son lays dead, Elvira said, "I feel like I made the wrong choice calling the police. I regret it with everything in my heart."
Officer Sergio Virgillo, a 14-year-veteran, describes in court documents the events that led to the death of Elvira's son Danny Frank Rodriquez:
Officers Sergio Virgillo and Richard Chrisman, patrolling in separate vehicles, both responded to the Elvira's call at 12:20 p.m. (Tuesday, 10/5/10 afternoon). Virgillo said Elvira Fernandez asked both of them to go inside the trailer and talk to her son.
When came Danny came to the door and didn't immediately let the officers in, Virgillo said, Chrisman responded by holding his service weapon to Danny's temple and Chrisman stated, "I don't need a warrant." Chrisman entered. Virgillo said Chrisman re-holstered his weapon. Inside, the officers shot Danny with a Taser and sprayed him with pepper spray. Chrisman, irritated by Danny's dog barking, shot his dog that was barking inside the trailer. Danny tried to leave the trailer on a bicycle and reached for the bike's handlebars. As Danny stood near his bike, Virgillo said, Chrisman raised his gun and shot him three times. Elvira's son lay dead. Paramedics declared Danny dead at the scene.
Elvira was outside when the murder occurred. On Thursday, Elvira said, “I heard the shots, I heard the banging on the door when they broke it down, I heard my son screaming."
Chrisman, 36, was taken into custody at 7:30 p.m. that Tuesday evening.
The next day, Police Chief Jack Harris said he was unclear as to why Chrisman ended up firing shots inside the trailer. The chief and other police officers described the dog that was shot dead as a pit bull, though relatives and neighbors said the dog was a several-month-old boxer puppy. Officer Virgillo had told investigators the dog was barking but never threatened the officers. Chrisman made his initial appearance Wednesday (10/6). His bond was set at $150,000.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which will represent Chrisman through the internal-affairs investigation, issued a statement of support for the officer, saying the union would help Chrisman's family raise money for bail.
Officer Chrisman's Internal inquiries:
Since 2007, Officer Chrisman has faced FOUR internal inquiries handled by the Phoenix Police Professional Standards Bureau - the department's internal-affairs unit. The cases include an excessive-force allegation in 2009, in addition to complaints about personal conduct and inattention to duty, police records show. Police leaders declined to comment on the nature of the complaints or if Chrisman faced any discipline.
Police in the city's South Mountain Precinct have come under public scrutiny this year by Councilman Johnson and members of the south Phoenix community in the wake of a March incident in which Johnson accused a patrol officer of violating his civil rights during a predawn handcuffing incident outside his home. Johnson commended Virgillo for "coming forward" and "telling the truth" about the shooting. Other community leaders also praised Virgillo's actions.
"He needs to be protected from peer scrutiny and publicly commended for his integrity to the sacred oath he lives by," said Adolfo Maldonado, a south Phoenix community activist who sits on the city's police-review task force. Harris on Wednesday met with nearly 40 south Phoenix community leaders and members of a city-appointed task force designed to come up with recommendations on how the department should better address citizen complaints about police misconduct.
He urged them to remind neighbors and residents to remain calm - to judge the case based on facts, rather than rumors. "I wanted to assure them . . . that we will investigate this thoroughly, that we have the facts, and that we take the appropriate action based on the facts," Harris said.
A Maricopa County grand jury has indicted a Phoenix police officer on a second-degree murder charge in the shooting of an unarmed man. Elvira said she is grateful that Chrisman is facing the murder charge and charges of aggravated assault and cruelty to animals for shooting Rodriguez' dog. However, she said she still struggles with what she calls a senseless death. Fernandez said her son was not a threat that day, and that she really did not need the help of police. She just thought they would help calm him down.
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