PHOENIX -- A former Phoenix police officer charged with fatally shooting an unarmed man during a violent confrontation at a Phoenix mobile home three years ago was found guilty of an assault charge Tuesday that could send him to prison for several years, but avoided conviction on a second-degree murder count.
Jurors hearing the case against Richard Chrisman deliberated for about four days before announcing their verdict Tuesday.
They were unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge, but convicted him of aggravated assault for putting a gun to victim Danny Rodriguez's head when he questioned the officer about entering his house without a warrant.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said no decision has been made on whether to retry Chrisman on the second-degree murder and an animal cruelty charge for shooting the man's dog. The jury also was deadlocked on that charge.
Chrisman was charged after his partner said he fatally shot Rodriguez and his dog without justification during the October 2010 encounter. Chrisman, a nine-year veteran of the force, was later fired.
He faced the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly putting a gun to Rodriguez's head. That charge carries a five- to 15-year sentence, with a presumptive term of 7 1/2 years in state prison.
The jury reconvened Tuesday afternoon and found that the assault caused severe emotional harm to Rodriguez's family. That finding will allow Judge Warren Granville to impose the maximum sentence. He set a status conference for Oct. 18.
In court Tuesday, Chrisman wore a dark suit and showed no reaction as the verdict was read. At one point before jurors entered the courtroom, he reached back and squeezed the hand of his wife, who was seated behind him. Other Chrisman supporters at the hearing included more than a dozen off-duty police officers. Family members of Rodriguez sat in the front row on the other side.
After the verdict was read, Chrisman, 39, was taken into custody, and his wife broke down in sobs. Rodriguez's mother, Elvira Fernandez, was hugged by a woman sitting with her and left the court without comment.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez and defense lawyer Craig Mehrens left without comment. Joe Clure, president of the police union, said he respected the jury's work but disagreed with the verdict.
"I believe this decision exemplifies how difficult it is to be a cop today in this country," Clure said.
He noted the trial lasted more than a month, and jurors deliberated for four days. "Rich had a split second to make his decision," Clure said.
The case, to a large degree, boiled down to conflicting accounts from Chrisman and his partner, officer Sergio Virgillo – the only two people, besides Rodriguez, inside the trailer to witness the escalating confrontation.
Rodriguez's mother had called police to the home on Oct. 5, 2010, saying her son was violent.
Chrisman and Virgillo confronted Rodriguez at the door of his mother's trailer, and Chrisman forced his way inside.
Rodriguez asked to see a warrant, and prosecutors said Chrisman then put his pistol against Rodriguez's head and told him he didn't need one. Mehrens told jurors that didn't happen, but Martinez said DNA on the officer's pistol and a bruise on the dead man's temple show it happened the way Virgillo testified.
The two officers had difficulty controlling Rodriguez, and both fired their stun guns with little effect. Chrisman used pepper spray on Rodriguez, then shot his dog. Prosecutors say the animal was not threatening the officers.
Virgillo said Rodriguez then got his bicycle and tried to leave the tiny trailer home, but Chrisman wouldn't allow it, and a tussle began. Virgillo testified that Rodriguez was backing away and no longer a threat when Chrisman fired, but Chrisman told jurors he was afraid Rodriguez was going to "smash my brains in" with the bike.
Also on HuffPost:
FILE - This July 5, 2011 file still frame from security camera video, released May 7, 2012, by the Orange County District Attorney, shows an altercation between Fullerton police officers and Kelly Thomas at the Fullerton, Calif., bus depot. Thomas died days later. Two officers, Manuel Ramos, and Jay Ciccinelli, are on trial charges related to his death. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Orange County District Attorney, File)
Oscar Grant BART shooting
Oscar Grant was shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer early on New Year's Day 2009 in Oakland, Calif. Cellphone footage shows BART cops struggling with Grant and forcing him to lay facedown on the platform after reports of a fight on the train. Officer Johannes Mehserle was seen shooting Grant in the back once, killing him. He was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted of second degree murder.
Rodney King Beating
In one of the most notorious cases of police brutality, a bystander recorded four Los Angeles Police Department officers beating Rodney King with their batons in 1991 after they pulled him over for driving erratically. When the videotape emerged days later of the attack, the four cops were charged with assault. A jury acquitted them, sparking riots in April 1992 that killed 55 people and led to 12,000 arrests over seven days.
Off-duty Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate was<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/23/ex-cop-anthony-abbate-get_n_219651.html" target="_hplink"> sentenced to two years probation</a> and anger management classes after being captured on video beating a female bartender in 2007.
Chicago police officer William Cozzi was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison after he was caught on camera in 2005 handcuffing a man to a wheelchair and beating him in a hospital. Cozzi claimed the victim -- a man who was seeking treatment for stab wounds -- had attacked him.
A New York City police officer was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/15/patrick-pogan-biker-shove_n_646517.html " target="_hplink">acquitted of assault and harassment</a> after being videotaped <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/28/critical-mass-bicyclist-a_n_115390.html " target="_hplink">knocking over cyclist Christopher Long</a> during a "Critical Mass" bike ride through Times Square in 2008. Patrick Pogan resigned from the police force and was found guilty of filing false documents after video emerged that contradicted his claim that Long swerved into him.
Ahmed Amadou Diallo
Ahmed Amadou Diallo, 22, seen here in an undated photo, was gunned down at his home in the Bronx borough of New York early Thursday morning, Feb. 4, 1999. Four white police officers from the elite Street Crime Unit fired 41 shots at Diallo, a black West African immigrant who had no police record and was unarmed. Diallo was hit 19 times and died instantly. The officers' lawyer says Diallo gestured with his hands, leading the police to think he was reaching for a gun.
Abner Loiuma became a symbol of unchecked police force after the Haitian immigrant was sodomized with a broomstick by cops in a New York City police station in 1997. The officer responsible for the attack, Justin Volpe, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
London newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson died after police officer Simon Harwood hit him with a baton and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/09/british-police-officer-su_n_185251.html " target="_hplink">knocked him to the ground</a> as he walked away from police during a G-20 protest in 2009. Harwood will stand trial in October for manslaughter, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jun/20/ian-tomlinson-death-officer-trial" target="_hplink">according to The Guardian</a>.
Michael Mineo accused an NYPD cop of sodomizing him with a baton after getting busted for smoking marijuana at a Brooklyn subway station in October 2008. A jury cleared the officer accused in the attack as well as two others charged with covering up the alleged assault.
In this May 24, 2010 file photo, former Chicago Police commander Jon Burge departs the federal building in Chicago. Burge, whose name has become synonymous with police brutality and abuse of power in Chicago, was convicted in 2010 of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil suit when he said he'd never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects.
Danziger Bridge Shootings
The trial is underway for four New Orleans police officers accused of killing two people and wounding four others in the shooting on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The suspects, pictured left to right, are Robert Faulcon Jr., Robert Gisevius Jr., Kenneth Bowen, and Anthony Villavaso II.
Security cameras in a Manhattan apartment building recorded NYPD officer David London hitting Iraq war veteran Walter Harvin almost 20 times with a baton even after he had handcuffed him. The incident began when Harvin entered the building without a key and refused to identify himself to London. Footage shows Harvin shoved London, but the cop lied to investigators by claiming that he'd been punched before retaliating with his baton. A jury acquitted London of assault and making false statements in 2010.
Eleanor Bumpurs, a 66-year-old African American woman, was killed by NYPD officers who were trying to evict her from her Bronx public housing apartment in 1984 for falling behind on her rent. City housing authority workers called in the cops, because they claimed that Bumpurs -- shown in an undated photo -- was mentally ill and that she menaced them with a knife while refusing to vacate her home. The officer who shot Bumpers twice with a shotgun was acquitted in 1987.
The 2006 shooting of 23-year-old Sean Bell raised questions in New York City about the NYPD's use of excessive force. On what would have been his wedding day, Bell was shot and killed by police in a hail of 50 bullets outside a strip club in Queens. Officers said they thought the victim and his friends, who were celebrating Bell's bachelor party, were planning on retrieving a gun from their vehicle when they opened fire. After months of protests around the city, Officers Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper were acquitted in 2008.