Ex-Lower Providence cop arraigned for theft of police rifle, ammunition

NORRISTOWN >> A former Lower Providence Township police officer has been arraigned on theft-related charges for allegedly stealing a police rifle and ammunition from his onetime police cruiser.

Charles J. Murray, 37, of the first block of Eagleville Road, Lower Providence, was arraigned Sept. 6 before District Court Judge Cathleen Rebar on charges of theft by unlawful taking, theft from a motor vehicle, firearms not to be carried without a license, recklessly endangering another person and institutional vandalism in connection with incidents that occurred between Aug. 29 and Aug. 30.

Rebar set Murray’s bail at $100,000, 10 percent, which Murray posted on Thursday. However, Murray remained in an undisclosed facility where he had been under court-ordered mental health supervision since the alleged incident.

Under bail conditions imposed by a judge, Murray can only be released to an in-patient program at an addiction treatment facility for 30 days and must comply with all recommendations for after care.

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Murray is prohibited from possessing firearms and is not permitted to gamble or enter a casino, according to bail restrictions. Additionally, Murray is prohibited from using alcohol and illegal drugs and must submit to random drug and alcohol testing. Murray is not permitted on the grounds of the Lower Providence Police Department.

County Judge Steven T. O’Neill also signed an order indicating Murray must wear an electronic ankle device upon release to monitor “defendant’s compliance with bail conditions.”

Murray faces a preliminary hearing on the charges at 10 a.m. Sept. 27.

With the charges, authorities alleged Murray 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 on Aug. 29. The following day, Murray allegedly tried to commit suicide outside of a church in West Norriton, which led to a heavy police presence in the area and prompted a SWAT team to surround the church.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, at 6:45 a.m. Aug. 29, 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 operated the vehicle that was broken into and 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 criminal complaint.

Murray was originally fired from the police department following two suspensions for “procedure and protocol violations,” prosecutors said previously.

On Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. police called Murray’s cellphone 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. Law enforcement, family members and friends of Murray’s tried to contact him throughout the next 16 hours without success.

At 8:15 a.m. Aug. 30, Murray was located at St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church, 1260 S. Trooper Road in West Norriton, according to court documents.

Murray 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, authorities alleged in the arrest affidavit.

A priest eventually convinced Murray to come into the church and police were notified. At no time was the priest in any danger and the church was not barricaded, authorities said.

At the time it was unclear if Murray possessed the M-16 and so a tactical unit was summoned out of precaution. Murray did not have a weapon on him when he voluntarily surrendered to police, authorities said. He was taken in to custody at the church at 10 a.m., according to the affidavit.

In a written statement to police, Murray admitted to breaking into his former patrol vehicle, stealing the M-16 rifle and ammunition. He admitted to disposing of the items under the Collegeville Bridge in Lower Providence.

Lower Providence police recovered the missing weapon and the two magazines on Aug. 30 under the bridge, court documents revealed.

Murray consented to a search of 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 did not have a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, police said.

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