A Blindside Attack, Out of the Blue

Colin Murphy

When the police chief is on your side, and then suddenly dies, only to be replaced by a politically motivated interim chief who wants your head, life behind the badge can get ugly fast. That's what Webster P.D. K-9 handler and patrolman Colin Murphy experienced, after answering a "man with a gun" call in the neighboring city of Nassau Bay (N.B) one Friday evening in 2013.

Adjacent communities, Webster and N.B. share a police radio channel and jail, and often work together on calls. It was a Friday afternoon rush hour, when the dispatcher contacted Webster for assistance on an N.B. call; N.B.'s rookie officer was on another call and couldn't respond. Colin Murphy was the first Webster patrolman on the scene. A suicidal suspect with a gun was seated in his car in his driveway. He had texted a neighbor not to "let his son find his body," after he was supposedly going to shoot himself.

Colin was familiar with the neighborhood and took a safe route to the scene, so as to not alert the suspect of his presence. Arranging backup, he sent the safe route to two other Webster officers and the N.B. rookie. The Webster officers followed the route. The rookie did not; he had blown their cover and a confrontation ensued.

After some negotiating, the suspect pointed his weapon at the officers, but they held their fire. It became clear that this was a "suicide-by-cop" situation. The crazed man eventually dropped his gun, but only set it near his feet. The officers were all positioned several yards away. The rookie broke to retrieve the gun, but the suspect failed to comply and held the officers at bay. Colin continued to negotiate, until he was within reach of the suspect. He saw his opportunity to end the standoff and lunged to separate the suspect from his vehicle and secure the man. But, the suspect resisted and told the officers, "Shoot me." When Colin used his rifle barrel to move the suspect away from his position of advantage, he inadvertently struck the man just above his sternum, resulting in a throat injury. With that, the other officers surrounded the suspect, subdued him with a taser, secured his weapon, cuffed him and ended the standoff. The entire incident was captured on body and vehicle cams.

Afterwards, Webster P.D. Chief Smiley reviewed the case and found the officers had done a good job given a terrible situation. Two lieutenants and a retired commander of the DPS Academy also reviewed the incident and signed off. No shots were fired. The only injury was to the suspect's throat, which occurred during the final scuffle. A life had been saved. However, just as the chief was about to close the investigation, he died from sudden health complications.

After the chief's death, an incompetent interim chief took over. One of the lieutenants on the case began politicking for a promotion, currying favor with the new chief who had something to prove. When the media entered the picture, the suspect's wife entered a complaint over her husband's throat injury. The interim then hid the expert's opinion to ensure it wouldn't appear in any reports. He then asked a friend at the district attorney's office to bring criminal charges against the officers. The interim then terminated the Webster officers, and Colin Murphy called the TMPA.

ā€œSooner or later, in this line of work, either you will find the need for legal representation or it will find you. I cannot stress enough the importance of being a TMPA member. They literally saved my career.ā€

"The loss of Chief Smiley, the political backlash, the media frenzy, the gunman's opportunistic wife, and later, a falsified investigation report, all came together in a perfect storm," Colin said. "Greg Cagle of TMPA recognized it as a witch hunt and got the termination modified to a paid administrative leave, giving us time to prepare our case."

Two years later, after a grand jury hearing, a civil suit, a round of appeals, numerous delays and finally, three separate jury trials all ending with "not guilty" verdicts, Colin and his fellow Webster officers were cleared of all charges. The interim chief was replaced and moved to the Liberty P.D.; Colin left Webster and began working for the Galveston P.D.

"The amount of stress this placed on me and my family was indescribable," said Colin.

He was unable to get married, as planned, almost lost his police license, nearly lost his K9 partner, and could have easily spent more than $100,000 in attorney fees had it not been for the TMPA stepping in with full legal support.

"Greg Cagle is one of the best in the business," Colin said. "He not only served as my attorney, he was my friend, counselor, encourager and a steady calming influence throughout. I couldn't have gotten through this without his help."

Since joining the Galveston P.D., Colin now shares his story on behalf of the TMPA at conferences and training seminars across the state.

"Sooner or later, in this line of work, either you will find the need for legal representation or it will find you," Colin said. "I cannot stress enough the importance of being a TMPA member. They literally saved my career."