A Dracut man was shot and killed by police in Newbury’s Byfield village Sunday evening — a violent end to what authorities allege was a two-day-long crime spree involving multiple carjackings.
The confrontation played out around 6 p.m. at the A L Prime Energy gas station on Central Street, where police cornered Thomas Christopher Murray as he sat behind the wheel of a stolen BMW X5 SUV, according to Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.
Murray, who turned 31 years old last Thursday, had allegedly fled in the vehicle from a Nashua, New Hampshire dealership, taking it at knifepoint after he stabbed an employee, prosecutors say.
@MassStatePolice confirm a man is in the hospital w/life threatening injuries after an officer-involved shooting in Byfield. They say the man is a suspect in 4 separate carjackings/vehicle thefts over past 2 days in MA and NH. @boston25 pic.twitter.com/msy9L76vje
— Kirsten Glavin (@kirstenglavin) February 17, 2020
BMW tracked Murray’s movements through an onboard location system, tracing his journey down Interstate-95 to where Newbury police officers and a Massachusetts State Police trooper found him among the gas pumps just off the highway, authorities said.
“They used their cruisers to box in the suspect vehicle, exited their cruisers, and approached the suspect,” a statement from Blodgett’s office said Monday. “In an attempt to evade capture, the suspect rammed the state police cruiser. At that point in the confrontation a police officer or officers discharged a weapon or weapons. The suspect was struck.”
Police performed emergency first aid on Murray at the scene. He was then brought to Anna Jaques Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
.@DAJonBlodgett re: Police-involved shooting that killed a 31 year old carjacking suspect tonight in Byfield. DA says the suspect rammed a police crusier, using stolen SUV as a weapon. #wcvb pic.twitter.com/wnpKJGfPjj
— Todd Kazakiewich (@ToddKazakiewich) February 17, 2020
Authorities say Murray was involved in two other carjackings over the weekend, and may be tied to a fourth in Boston. His family told reporters it’s unclear what would have led him to the string of crimes.
“You can’t imagine what goes through your mind, what led up to this and why and how,” Cheryl Gordon, Murray’s aunt, told NBC 10 Boston. “If you knew Tommy, you knew he was a good kid, nice person, he had a big heart — it’s just devastating, you know.”
Here’s what we know about the incidents so far:
An Audi Q5 was reported stolen in North Andover
North Andover police responded to a reported carjacking involving an Audi Q5 Saturday around 3:45 p.m. on Route 114, authorities said.
The owner of the sedan told police he was inside a Starbucks when a white man, later identified as Murray, entered the car as the owner’s wife and 5-year-old child were in the vehicle, officials said.
— Steve Cooper (@scooperon7) February 17, 2020
Murray yelled at them to get out of the car and, once they did, drove off with the vehicle, traveling westbound on Route 114, the statement from Blodgett’s office said.
“No weapon was shown,” officials said. “Items recovered at the scene, as well as witness statements, led to Thomas Murray being identified almost immediately.”
The car was involved in a police pursuit in Canton around 6:30 a.m. Sunday and was ultimately recovered in Lexington, according to authorities.
The suspect drove to the BMW dealership in a car allegedly stolen in Lowell
On Sunday, Murray arrived at the Tulley BMW dealership in Nashua, where he apparently feigned his interest in purchasing a vehicle.
“He acted like a customer for a little while, a persistent customer that wanted to buy a car,” sales manager Thomas Revetria told WCVB.
Authorities said Murray allegedly drove to the dealership in a Subaru Legacy that was reported stolen from an elderly woman in Lowell approximately two hours earlier. The victim did not suffer any serious injuries, officials said.
At the dealership, Murray eventually stole the BMW at knifepoint around 5 p.m. and stabbed an employee, who suffered minor injuries, according to Blodgett’s office.
Investigators are also looking into whether Murray is connected to a vehicle theft in Boston on Saturday, officials said.
“Massachusetts State police detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office and from Crime Scene Services Section are collecting evidence, conducting interviews and processing the shooting scene,” the statement from Blodgett’s office said Monday. “A search warrant will be executed on the BMW as part of the investigation.
“As in all police involved shootings, the investigation is being led by the district attorney of jurisdiction, in this case Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. The investigation is being conducted along with State Police and Newbury Police.”
On Tuesday, however, Blodgett said he will transfer the investigation of the shooting to Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz, since one of the officers involved was previously assigned to the State Police Detective Unit attached to the Essex DA’s Office.
“When police officers use fatal force, the public is entitled to a thorough and transparent investigation,” Blodgett said in a statement. “In order to avoid any potential conflict of interest, this matter will be transferred to Plymouth County.”
‘I was shocked’
Murray’s relatives told NBC 10 Boston they do not blame police for the shooting that ended his life, but are still reeling from his death.
“I was shocked at how it happened and the outcome,” Gordon, Murray’s aunt, told WBZ-TV.
She said her family learned of his death when they saw it on television.
His family is trying to piece together what led to what happened over the weekend.
Aside from those incidents, Murray’s criminal record was minimal: he was charged with larceny in Stoughton in 2008, NBC 10 Boston reports.
His grandfather, Francis, told WCVB that Murray struggled with drug abuse for about 10 years, but added that things had apparently been going well lately for Murray, who had a job at Starbucks and recently had his probation time reduced.
Gordon said Murray’s family is thinking of the BMW dealership employee who was injured, according to NBC 10 Boston.
“We’re all … sorry this happened,” she said. “We’re grateful that he’s alive.”
She said the family is also devastated by Murray’s death.
“It’s sad,” she said, WBZ-TV reports. “It’s a loss of life, it’s a waste of life.”