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Police: Man driving, drinking schnapps tried to hit officer

Police: Man driving, drinking schnapps tried to hit officer

(Uintah County Sheriff's Office)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Fort Duchesne man accused of trying to hit a police officer while driving and drinking peppermint schnapps is facing a charge of attempted murder.

Joy Dean Murray, who turns 35 on Tuesday, was charged in 8th District Court earlier this month with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and other charges stemming from the July 14 incident.

According to court documents, police first spotted Murray driving his black Nissan Titan through Vernal at double the 25 mph speed limit and proceeding through multiple stop signs without stopping. As officers attempted to pull him over, with lights and sirens on, Murray continued to drive, the affidavit indicates.

Murray continued to speed as police followed him, according to the affidavit, moving into oncoming lanes to pass other drivers.

After he turned on to U.S. 40, Murray's speed climbed to 100 mph, well above the 65 mph limit, and he almost crashed twice when he crossed the fog lines on the shoulder of the road, police reported.

Vernal police officer Chance Kirkham laid spike strips across the road waiting for Murray, but when Murray arrived, he came almost to stop, turned his truck perpendicular on the road and hit the gas, police reported.

"It appeared Mr. Murray was trying to run over officer Kirkham," the officer who wrote the affidavit reported. "Officer Kirkham was directly in the path of the vehicle, and I was terrified officer Kirkham was going to be killed or run over. Officer Kirkham had to run out of the way, and the vehicle missed him by mere inches."

Murray drove off the highway and headed out through the sagebrush, the affidavit states, with officers pursuing and hitting the truck several times in an effort to disable it.

Officers eventually pinned Murray's truck at a weigh station, the affidavit states, but Murray refused to get out of the vehicle. Officers broke the man's window with a baton and pulled Murray from the vehicle, at one point deploying a Taser.

Murray initially gave officers a fake name, according to the affidavit. Officers taking him into custody reported they "could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage" as soon as the truck was opened and an open bottle of peppermint schnapps was sitting in the cup holder, the affidavit states.

Murray's breath also smelled of alcohol, his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred, according to the affidavit. A warrant for a blood-alcohol test was ordered when Murray refused to consent to have his blood drawn.

Murray is an alcohol-restricted driver with a suspended license who must use an alcohol interlock device, which the truck did not have, according to the affidavit.

In addition to the attempted murder charge, Murray is charged with failing to stop at the command of law enforcement, a third-degree felony; class B misdemeanors for driving under the influence, driving with an alcohol restriction, operating a vehicle without an interlock device, and driving on a suspended license; and class C misdemeanors for having an open container in a vehicle and giving false personal information to a police officer.

Murray is in custody in Uintah County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 9.

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McKenzie Romero

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