ST. LOUIS — Ray Murphy was only asleep for a few hours Monday when his phone rang just after midnight.
On the other end was his son’s sergeant, who told him, “Ryan’s been shot in the leg. He’s still conscious and we’re driving to Barnes now, but he’s still conscious and he’s still alive.”
“I told him, ‘Thank you,’ and I hung up,” Ray Murphy recalled.
Then, he had to tell his wife what happened to their only child.
“I woke up my wife and said, ‘We have to go. Ryan’s been shot,’” he said. “And we got dressed as fast as we could and did not waste any time getting to the hospital.”
Once there, Ray said cops swarmed the area. He didn’t know yet, but his son was one of four St. Louis police officers shot that night. A peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis had devolved into a night of violence unlike St. Louis has ever seen in recent memory. All four officers were struck in their extremities and have been released from the hospital to recover at home.
The department doesn’t allow officers to speak to the media. So, Ryan Murphy’s father spoke on his behalf in an exclusive interview with 5 On Your Side.
As he and his wife saw their 34-year-old son lying on a gurney that night, bloodied and somewhat out of it from pain medication being pumped into his body, Ray Murphy said anger swept over him.
“I was hurt and angry that my son was shot doing his job,” he said. “He wasn't out there to hurt anybody.
“He is doing what the City of St. Louis asked him to do and to get shot doing the job is ridiculous.”
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Ryan Murphy told his father the following account of what happened when he got shot:
There was a line of Civil Disobedience Team officers stretched across Olive and 17th near police headquarters. Murphy and the other officers who got shot – three of whom are members of the same detective squad – were standing about 125 feet away from them discussing what they were going to do with their video cameras and digital equipment.
Rioters started throwing Molotov cocktails at officers on the line, so officers began firing tear gas. That’s when Ryan Murphy fell to the ground. He gripped his leg. And looked at his hand. It was covered in blood. He felt warm blood pouring down his leg.
He said: “Sarge, I’m hit.”
His fellow officers ran to him, tied a tourniquet on his leg, put him in a police Tahoe to drive him to the hospital.
He told his father he remembers hearing his sergeant call to wake him.
He told his father getting shot felt like letting the strongest person you know hit you square in the thigh with a bat so hard that it splits the muscle and hits the bone, and before they pull the bat back, the pain sets in and continues to increase.
He told his dad that he thought the shooter might have been firing from an elevated position based on how all of the officers were hit, and that no one heard the shots because they were timed with every launch of a tear gas canister fired by police.
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A St. Louis man has been charged federally with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charges are related to the "ongoing investigation into the shooting of four St. Louis Police officers," according to news release.
Police said Christopher Gaston, 40, was living in a condominium complex adjacent to the scene of the shooting. Witnesses reported seeing him with a gun Monday evening.
Police found footage on a security camera that showed Gaston carrying a long gun partially covered by a blanket, according to the release. Police did not directly link him to the shooting that left Murphy and the three other officers injured.
But police found two guns, a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun, in his home.
Police said the handgun was loaded with five rounds and a box of 45 additional rounds of .380 caliber ammunition was nearby.
Gaston admitted he was a convicted felon and knew he could not possess a firearm, the release said.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The bullet that hit Murphy went through his left thigh.
It did not hit any major arteries or bone, his dad said.
But Ryan Murphy has told his father that he feels like part of his leg has been asleep ever since the shooting and believes the swelling is pushing on a nerve. He’s been surviving on antibiotics, Advil and ice to control the pain, trying to avoid the painkillers doctors gave him.
Permanent damage appears unlikely at this point, but only time will tell, Ray Murphy said.
He said his son will be out of work for at least four weeks – probably the hardest aspect of the experience for his son, he said. Both father and son are Army veterans. And more than 20 members of their family are police officers.
“He’s a hard charger,” Ray Murphy said. “He did his time in Iraq. It’s the soldier in him, the 'Let’s get back out there again.' It’s our nature.”
Ryan Murphy sent pictures of himself from his hospital bed to his father along with a short video of himself trying to assure his father and his comrades that he was OK. His eyes were bloodshot from tear gas exposure, and pain medication had already set in. His hospital gown covered part of his upper body, revealing many of his tattoos and the blood pressure cuff on his right arm. He held his head up and said: “Hey, through and through to the leg, I’m fine. I’m at Barnes don’t let this deter you guys from working on the street ... I’ll be fine. I’ll be out there shortly.”
Ray Murphy choked up when asked what advice he has for other parents of police officers.
“Don’t take things for granted,” he said. “Always say, ‘I love you to them because you just don’t know…”
And he ended the interview.
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