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Murray to appear in court

March 4, 2021 — Former Ukiah Police Sergeant Kevin Murray is scheduled to appear in Mendocino County Superior Court today, to be arraigned on information. 

On January 26, District Attorney David Eyster filed a complaint against Murray, charging him with four felonies for crimes alleged to have occurred on November 25 of last year. The complaint says he entered an occupied motel room on South Orchard Avenue in Ukiah and violated the civil rights of a woman by intimidating her “under color of law.” Murray is also facing two charges of burglary for entering the room twice, and one of sexual battery for forcing the woman to touch his genitals. 

The DA’s complaint also includes a misdemeanor charge of possession of methamphetamine on December 1.

Murray posted $200,000 bail on the conditions that he wear an ankle monitor, surrender all firearms, and be subject to search and seizure of firearms and drug testing.

Murray, who lives in Lakeport, surrendered four handguns and a rifle with a scope to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on February 3. 

Later that month, Eyster filed another complaint against Murray, saying that in June or July of 2014, Murray raped someone identified only as Jane Doe, while armed with a gun. Murray faces a second count of forcible oral copulation against Jane Doe a few months later, in April.

Murray was arrested again last week on those charges, and is being held on $500,000 bail. Eyster requested that his previous bail be recalled and increased because he had hidden an assault rifle at his father-in-law’s house. According to the complaint, Murray had carried the rifle as a duty weapon while he was a police officer, and it is illegal for non-peace officers to possess this particular kind of  weapon. The DA believes that Murray committed contempt of court and fraud on the court by submitting a false firearm statement.

Ukiah Police Chief Justin Wyatt released a statement in a Facebook video on January 29, saying the internal investigation of Murray had concluded and that he was no longer employed with the Ukiah Police Department.  He said the UPD is cooperating with the DA’s office in its investigation, which is ongoing.

In a separate matter, Murray and the City of Ukiah are being sued in the United States District Court of California in San Francisco by a man named Christopher Rasku, who says that on October 13 of 2018, Murray broke into his home and brutalized him. Rasku was later charged with the felony of resisting arrest. According to a complaint signed in May of last year, Rasku was in his home behind a partly closed doorway when Murray responded to a call by a neighbor about an argument between two other neighbors. Rasku claims Murray charged his door, knocking him unconscious, and proceeded to beat him so severely that one of his lungs collapsed. The statement says Murray had not turned on his body camera, but that a neighbor filmed Murray’s forcible entrance, which allegedly contradicted Murray’s account.

The Willits Police Department has also had some personnel changes in the last few months. Alexis Blaylock, the city’s first Black female police chief, arrived on August 26 of last year and departed abruptly on October 8. In December, a Southern California law firm sent the Willits City Council a letter, saying it was representing Blaylock. It said Blaylock would sign a release of claims agains the city, or agree not to sue, for a payment of $500,000 from “the City and applicable individuals...and a commitment on behalf of the City to provide workplace discrimination and retaliation training to certain City employees and officials for the purpose of making the City and Police Department more tolerant, effective and honest institutions.” The letter then goes on to detail the hostility that Blaylock allegedly encountered from a subordinate and the City Manager at the time, Stephanie Garrabrant-Sierra. The claims range from difficulties securing keys to the evidence room to being undermined when she fact-checked a workers’ compensation claim based on an undocumented use of force. The letter claims that “The City undermined Chief Blaylock’s authority and credited baseless allegations against her while ignoring her own credible claims of misconduct. Yet non-black male employees committed serious misconduct that was ignored.” The letter claims that the City Manager told Blaylock she could not write anyone up for any reason or take disciplinary actions without her permission, and that Blaylock was told to meet with her and a white male subordinate three times a week to assess her performance. The letter claims that Blaylock  has lost income and suffered mental and emotional distress, humiliation and reputational harm and that she is prepared to sue the City if her demands for compensation and training are not met.

Brian Bender was hired as the new Willits City Manager on January fourth of this year. Fabian Lizzarago, who retired as the Fort Bragg police chief last year, has been serving as the interim police chief in Willits since early November. In a lengthy Facebook post this week, he referred to “possible litigation pending regarding interactions between my predecessor and members of the Department and City staff.” He added that no lawsuit has been filed against the City or the Department, and that policies continue to be reviewed. He said his department is young in terms of experience, and that  “any mistakes made are of the mind and not of the heart.”

In November, voters in Willits passed Measure K, a three-quarter cent sales tax, to prevent the elimination of police services and other vital city functions.

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