FBI knew fugitive Roy McGrath had bought used Cadillac and had gun, multiple cellphones, attorney says

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The FBI knew Roy McGrath had purchased a used Cadillac, had a gun and was using multiple cellphones before the confrontation that led to his death Monday in suburban Tennessee, according to McGrath’s attorney, Joseph Murtha.

Murtha told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that updates from federal investigators looking into his client’s death have been slim, saying “it’s been quiet,” and that he was “still waiting to find out what happened.”


But Murtha said he’d heard from people familiar with the investigation about the car, weapon and phones, and said it was his understanding that the “FBI was continually investigating [McGrath’s] whereabouts, and how he was apprehended was directly related to the FBI investigation.”

It remains unclear to Murtha where McGrath was while he was on the run, how long he’d been in Tennessee and how and when he’d gotten the cellphones and gun, including whether the weapon was legally purchased, he said.


The public affairs officer for the FBI Baltimore field office, Shayne Buchwald, declined to comment Thursday on the information Murtha shared, saying she was unable to discuss “an ongoing investigation.” The FBI has said it is reviewing an “agent-involved” shooting; it has not specified whether gunfire from an agent or agents struck McGrath.

McGrath, the former chief of staff for former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, was on the run for three weeks after he failed to appear on March 13 for his federal fraud trial in downtown Baltimore. The bureaucrat turned fugitive was facing criminal charges of wire fraud, embezzlement and falsifying a document.

Roy McGrath was wanted by the FBI for failure to appear on charges of wire fraud; theft in programs receiving federal funds; falsification of records; and forfeiture.

The fugitive search for McGrath came to a close on Monday evening in a suburb outside Knoxville, Tennessee, where McGrath was fatally shot. Authorities have not officially said whether McGrath shot himself, was shot by agents or both.

Photos from the scene showed a white Cadillac SUV with damaged windows. Murtha said it was his understanding that vehicle was the same one the FBI knew about. He said from the information he was provided, it was his opinion the SUV had been purchased after McGrath went on the run.

Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration said this week that McGrath and his wife had no active vehicle registrations; Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles identified a different vehicle registered to McGrath’s wife and none for McGrath himself.

Murtha said he plans to push for results of the FBI’s review of the shooting, and that an autopsy or medical examiner’s report could provide key information, including how many times McGrath was shot and whether wounds were self-inflicted.

“If there was an exchange of gunfire and there was more than one injury, the autopsy would be very important,” Murtha said. “If it was a single gunshot wound that appeared to be from the firearm that he had, that’s much easier to determine the cause of death.”

Buchwald said she couldn’t provide an estimate for when the FBI’s review would be completed because it varies from case to case. She said part of the review would include the medical examiner’s report.


Chris Thomas, from the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, said Wednesday that the office had performed an autopsy on McGrath, but declined to provide the cause or manner of death. Thomas said the pathologist will not release findings until the report is complete, which could take weeks or months.

In response to a question about whether McGrath’s body was released to his family, Thomas said “arrangements have been made.”

Murtha said he has been in touch with McGrath’s wife, Laura Bruner, and she is “very interested” in understanding how her husband “lost his life.”

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Bruner’s attorney, William Brennan, said Thursday that no one had shared details of the investigation with him.

“The only thing I know about the investigation is what I read in the paper,” Brennan said.

He also declined to discuss conversations he’d had with Bruner, who he said “very much” wants privacy.


The search for McGrath took an odd turn when a self-published book detailing McGrath’s time in state government appeared on Amazon under an author named Ryan C. Cooper, who declined to provide any identifying details to reporters. A second book, advertised as a sequel, appeared shortly thereafter.

Murtha said Thursday he also doesn’t know who McGrath may have been talking to on his cellphones.

“That’s a good question,” he said.

Baltimore Sun Reporter Lee O. Sanderlin contributed to this article.