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Tennessee DA: Roy McGrath suffered simultaneous gun shots from self, FBI agent; no charges will be filed against agent

Roy McGrath, pictured here during his brief tenure as Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

No charges will be filed against federal agents involved in the attempted arrest of Roy McGrath.

McGrath was the subject of a federal manhunt in April when he was found outside Knoxville, Tennessee. McGrath died in a confrontation with federal agents. A report by the medical examiner in Knox County determined that McGrath simultaneously suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound and a single wound from a gun fired by a federal agent, according to prosecutors in Tennessee.

“Following the completion of an autopsy, the medical examiner’s office was unable to determine which of the two gunshot wounds caused McGrath’s death,” according to a statement released by Knox County District Attorney General Charme P. Allen on Friday morning.

McGrath eluded investigators for three weeks after failing to appear in federal court in Baltimore on March 13.

McGrath served nearly three months as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff in spring 2020 before resigning amid questions about his time at the quasi-public Maryland Environmental Service. Federal prosecutors charged him with eight counts, including wire fraud, theft and falsification of a government document stemming from his steps to secure a $233,648 severance payment from the Maryland Environmental Service just as he was joining Hogan’s staff. The payment was equal to his annual salary as head of the agency.

McGrath also faced separate but related charges filed in state court by the Office of the State Prosecutor.

As part of McGrath’s conditions of release, he promised to appear in federal court for his trial.

Soon after McGrath failed to appear, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Boardman issued a warrant for his arrest. That warrant touched off a nationwide search.

Federal “wanted” posters for Roy McGrath.

The FBI and U.S. Marshals doubled a reward for information leading to McGrath’s capture to $20,000. The FBI also released a wanted poster containing a number of possible aliases McGrath might use.

Around the same time, an author using the name Ryan Cooper released two digital publications about McGrath. Emails from the author claimed the first 51-page issue would show how McGrath was railroaded by Hogan.

The book contained no quotes nor citations of any kind and ultimately offered little proof.

The author published a second book related to the case and hinted at a third. That volume was not released.

Cooper stopped responding to emails at the time of McGrath’s death. A phone number associated with the author appears to be disconnected.

Joseph Murtha, McGrath’s attorney, said in April that federal agents “became capable and successful in tracking” his client. Investigators were able to identify a vehicle McGrath had recently purchased. They were also able to track him through several cell phones McGrath had that allowed agents to pinpoint McGrath’s location in Farragut, outside Knoxville.

Joseph Murtha, Roy McGrath’s defense attorney, spoke with reporters outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore after his client failed to appear for trial on embezzlement and fraud charges related to his state job. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Allen’s office said investigators determined McGrath was in Knoxville at a Costco warehouse store and asked agents there to arrest him.

The prosecutor’s office, in the statement, said agents located McGrath’s vehicle and attempted to stop him before he left the parking lot. McGrath ignored police, who gave chase and forced him to stop by boxing him in between a nearby fast-food restaurant and auto parts store.

“Agents approached the vehicle and repeatedly announced ‘FBI’ and ordered McGrath to put his hands out of the open driver’s side window,” according to the Knoxville prosecutor’s statement. “McGrath replied ‘No,’ and ‘I have a gun, and it’s loaded.'”

McGrath, according to the report, then “raised the gun to his right temple. The way McGrath held the gun placed agents within the trajectory of McGrath’s gun causing one of the agents to be believe McGrath posed a threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury to himself and other agents.”

McGrath fired a single shot into the right side of his head. At the same time, an agent fired a single round that struck McGrath’s left cheek, according to the report

McGrath was treated at the scene and taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He was pronounced dead 30 minutes later, according to the statement.

The vehicle, a white SUV, was shown in published photos after the shooting with a broken front passenger side window.

The names of the agents involved have not been released because the incident is still under review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Knoxville prosecutors were asked to review the incident to determine if criminal charges were warranted.

“The file was not reviewed to determine whether violations of civil law or violations of departmental policies or procedure occurred as those would be outside the purview of this office,” according to the prosecutor’s statement.

“In this case, it is clear that agents had probable cause and a reasonable believe that McGrath posed a threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury,” the prosecutor said in the statement. “Based upon the investigation in this case and viewed from the perception of the agents under the circumstances, that belief is reasonable and supported by probable cause, justifying the use of deadly force in self-defense. Disproving self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury is not supported by the evidence. There is also an additional proof problem in this case in that the Medical Examiner, the State’s expert witness necessary to prove a case at trial, cannot testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty as to either manner or cause of death. Without this necessary proof to establish an element of an offense, any prosecution would fail. In short, the actions of the agents are justified as self-defense, and criminal charges are not supported in this matter.’

The Knoxville prosecutor’s office said no additional comments about the case would be made beyond the statement and directed questions to federal officials.


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Tennessee DA: Roy McGrath suffered simultaneous gun shots from self, FBI agent; no charges will be filed against agent