VIDEO: Ex-Lower Providence cop charged after stealing weapons from police vehicle

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, Lower Providence Police Chief Stanley Turtle and West Norriton Police Chief A. Dale Mabry announced charges have been filed against former Lower Providence Police Officer Charles Murray for allegedly stealing a police M-16 patrol rife and ammunition from his old police cruiser. Murray also caused a SWAT until to descend on a West Norriton Church after attempting to commit suicide.

NORRISTOWN >> A former Lower Providence Township police officer who allegedly stole a police rifle and ammunition from his old police cruiser and caused a SWAT team to surround a church is under court-ordered mental health supervision Thursday.

Charles J. Murray, 37, of the first hundred block of Eagleville Road, Eagleville, faces multiple charges including a second degree felony theft charge, after he allegedly stole an M-16 police patrol rifle, two Glock .40 caliber magazines containing 15 hollow point rounds of ammunition, two M-16 magazines each containing 30 rounds of ammunition and a tourniquet from his former police cruiser. He later tried to commit suicide outside of a church in West Norriton Wednesday morning, which led to a heavy police presence in the area.

“There was a number of points in this that things could have gone very wrong,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said at a press conference Thursday. “Thankfully we’re here to talk to you about this where somebody didn’t take their own life, there was no hostage situation, the gun was recovered and it didn’t fall into a child’s hands. I really attribute all of that going right to the work of our law enforcement community. This was all hands on (deck). Each department jumping in working together and we got a result in this case where no one was harmed.”

According to an affidavit of probable cause, at 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, Lower Providence Police discovered the rear windshield of a patrol vehicle had been broken. The investigation revealed an M-16 patrol rife and ammunition was missing from the vehicle. The vehicle had been parked in the parking lot of the police station.

Murray, a former U.S. Marine who served with the police department for 10 years, was fired June 2, 2017. Before his termination, he drove the vehicle that was broken into Tuesday. He had knowledge of the proper code needed to access the M-16 patrol rifle that was stored in the back of the patrol vehicle, according to the affidavit.

Murray was originally fired from the police department following two suspensions for “procedure and protocol violations,” Steele said. It’s unclear whether he’s had any previous mental health issues.

On Tuesday, at 4 p.m. Lower Providence Police called Murray’s cell phone and asked him to come to the station to discuss an important matter. Murray would not agree to coming to the station and left his home in his black 2016 Jeep Patriot to go on the run from authorities. Law enforcement, family members and friends of Murray’s tried to contact him throughout the next 16 hours without success. On Wednesday, at 8:15 a.m. he was located at St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church, 1260 S. Trooper Road, West Norriton, the affidavit states.

Murray had attempted to commit suicide by connecting a ventilation hose to the exhaust of his vehicle and placing the other end of the hose inside his vehicle, leaving the windows closed, according to the affidavit.

A priest convinced him to come into the church and police were called, Steele said. At no time was the priest in any danger and the church was not barricaded.

It was unclear at the time whether Murray had the M-16 on him and a tactical unit was called in out of precaution. Murray did not have a weapon on him when he voluntarily surrendered to police, Steele said. He was taken in to custody at the church at 10 a.m. and brought to the Lower Providence Police Department, according to the affidavit.

In a written statement to police, Murray admitted to breaking into the Lower Providence Police patrol vehicle, stealing the M-16 rifle and ammunition. He admitted to disposing of the items under the Collegeville Bridge in Lower Providence on Tuesday morning. Lower Providence Police recovered the missing weapon and the two magazines on Wednesday under the bridge, the affidavit states.

Murray gave police permission to search his Jeep Patriot and authorities found a Sig Sauer, 230 SL 9mm Kurz handgun. The weapon was loaded with ammunition including a round in the chamber. A records check revealed Murray does not have a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Authorities have no idea what caused Murray to allegedly steal the weapons and ammunition from the cruiser in the first place. The Lower Providence Police Department has already begun making changes to its policy and procedures to prevent an incident like this from happening again, Steele said.

Murray will be arraigned at a later date, he said. Steele would not say Thursday where Murray was being kept, other than to say he was in a “secure area.”

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