SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Fifteen years later, Todd Murray’s family will finally have their say in court.
A recent federal court ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the family’s last civil lawsuit. This means the family could soon have a federal lawsuit, a lawsuit they have been fighting since his death in 2007. It began on April 1, 2007 when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper attempted to arrest a driver after speeding.
“I’m 1080 SR40, U88. We’re heading south on U88,” the soldier could be heard as he communicated with the local dispatcher. “(It’s) a black passenger car.”
Todd Murray was a passenger in the vehicle. They had just returned from Vernal and were returning home to the Ute Indian Reservation. They reached speeds of 110 miles per hour according to 911 calls released by the Denver-based Tribal Law Group.
An off-duty Vernal police officer joined the UHP as the hunt entered the reserve.
“We’re going 115 miles per hour,” the soldier informed.
At that point, other law enforcement officers joined in the hunt. It ended after the driver’s vehicle collided with the soldiers. The car was in the air, according to Murray’s mother, and landed and stopped.
The driver and passenger took off in different directions. Murray was found in an isolated ravine. The off-duty officer spotted him. Then there were gunshots.
“The suspect is down,” said a breathless police officer. “He just shot himself in the head. (Inaudible) We have the suspect. He shot himself in the head. I need officers here.
Murray, who had just turned 21 the day before, died en route to hospital.
“It was in the afternoon at 4 p.m. when the officers came to my house,” recalls Debra Jones, Murray’s mother. “(They) said my son had committed suicide and we had to go to Vernal because that’s where they had his body.”
Right off the bat, Jones claimed the explanation given by law enforcement did not match up. Jones said the weapon found at the scene was evidenced, but was never tested and Murray’s body was not scanned for gun residue.
“They said my son shot himself in the left side behind the ear,” Jones said. “But he was right-handed. So I think it was physically impossible to do.
The FBI investigation was flawed according to tribal attorneys. The FBI declined to comment.
On Wednesday, as Murray’s story continues, attorneys for the family and tribe offer more details about other issues with the investigation, and an attorney representing the Vernal police officer said that the recent decision implicated the FBI, not Vernal’s police officer.