A former King County sheriff’s deputy is believed to have originally purchased the .45-caliber handgun found near Che Taylor after he was fatally shot by two Seattle police officers Feb. 21, according to police records and law-enforcement officials.
A handgun allegedly carried by Che Taylor when he was fatally shot by two officers Feb. 21 appears to have been originally purchased by a former King County sheriff’s deputy in 2013 at an Issaquah gun store, according to Seattle police records and law-enforcement officials.
The former deputy, Daniel J. Murphy, who was fired by the Sheriff’s Office last year as a result of an unrelated domestic dispute, strongly disputes the claim, saying through an attorney he is the victim of mistaken identity.
Doug Dawson, special agent in charge of the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), said Tuesday the bureau is investigating how a gun apparently purchased by the onetime law-enforcement officer ended up in the hands of Taylor, a felon prohibited from owning a firearm. The African-American man’s shooting by police was highly publicized.
Dawson said the investigation will include a review of Washington state licensing records, identification given at the time of the 2013 purchase and handwriting samples.
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He said his agency will work with Seattle police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine if a federal violation has occurred.
In addition, King County Sheriff John Urquhart announced Tuesday his department has opened an internal investigation into the matter, saying Murphy is seeking to overturn his firing and that the purported purchase occurred while he was working as a deputy.
Murphy is believed to be the purchaser of the Springfield Armory XDS .45-caliber pistol found in a car Taylor had just exited when he was shot, according to Seattle police records obtained by The Seattle Times under a public-disclosure request.
In one document, an April 15 entry noted that a detective had sent an email requesting the help of an ATF intelligence specialist in contacting Murphy in Utah, where he now lives. The detective wanted to determine how Taylor came into possession of the Springfield handgun believed to have been purchased by Murphy, according to the document.
Taylor, 46, was shot during a confrontation in North Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, captured on a patrol-car video.
The two officers who fired the shots told investigators they feared for their lives when they saw Taylor reach toward what they believed was a handgun in a holster, according to police records.
The two officers, Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller, in recorded statements, said that shortly before the confrontation, they had seen Taylor carrying the handgun in the holster while they were conducting surveillance on the home of another man suspected of narcotics dealing.
Spaulding and Miller said they recognized Taylor, who had arrived at the scene, as a violent felon who had served prison time.
Taylor had a lengthy felony record, including rape, robbery and assault, and he was under supervision by the state Department of Corrections after being sent to prison in 1992 and released in 2014.
The officers said Taylor was listed by the ATF as an armed career criminal who, if found to be in possession of a firearm, should be reported to the ATF.
Taylor also was subject to immediate arrest for being a felon in possession of the gun, according to their statements.
The officers moved to arrest Taylor after he exited a parked car occupied by a woman and a man. Taylor was shot at close range as he stood by the car.
Detectives with a warrant later recovered the loaded Springfield pistol from the floorboard of the car after it was impounded, according to police.
Taylor’s family and supporters have alleged the shooting was unjustified, asserting evidence could have been planted to support the police version of events.
The gun recovered by detectives was traced to Murphy, said Rebecca Boatright, senior legal counsel for the Seattle Police Department, who provided The Times with a photograph of the gun’s stamped serial number.
The firearm was purchased at a gun store in Issaquah, Boatright said.
Boatright also released a photo that Murphy provided to Seattle police, showing the same type of handgun.
Murphy reported to police he had transferred his Springfield to a friend in Florida, who was still in possession of the gun, according to Boatright. In the photo, the gun was placed on a newspaper page to show a current date.
However, the stamped serial number on that gun was different from the one tied to Taylor, Boatright said.
Tim Leary, a Seattle attorney who represented Murphy in the domestic matter, said in an email Monday that he had spoken to Murphy about the gun tied to Taylor.
“He is adamant that the gun … was not a Springfield purchased by him,” Leary wrote. “He has owned three Springfields. He sold all three.”
One is still possessed by the friend in Florida, another was sold to a King County sheriff’s deputy and a third is possessed by a friend in Orting, Pierce County, Leary wrote.
Murphy provided this information to a Seattle police detective, Leary wrote.
The gun in Florida is the only XDS model Murphy owned, Leary said Tuesday, referring to the model at issue.
Murphy later called the Issaquah store where the firearm tied to Taylor was purportedly purchased, Leary wrote in the email. Murphy had shopped there before, Leary said Tuesday.
“He asked for the records of his purchases. The person at the store asked ‘Which Daniel J. Murphy? We have three Daniel J. Murphys.’ Dan assumes that the purchase was made by a different Daniel J. Murphy,” Leary wrote in the email.
“Dan told me that ‘there is no way it was one of my guns,’ ” Leary added.
Murphy joined the King County Sheriff’s Office in 2005.
He was charged with felony harassment in February 2015, accused by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office of threatening to kill his girlfriend.
The charge was dropped in April 2015 at the request of prosecutors, who said in a court filing that the woman no longer wished to participate in the case.
Shortly after, he was fired by Urquhart, who found Murphy had engaged in conduct that was criminal in nature and conduct unbecoming a deputy.
In an email Tuesday, Urquhart said, “I can confirm … that we opened an internal investigation on Dan Murphy and his purchase of the handgun found with Che Taylor. We are working closely with ATF and the Seattle Police Department on that investigation.”
He added, “Even though I terminated Murphy … the police guild decided to take his termination to arbitration. There is a chance we could be forced to rehire him, with back pay. Since the gun was purchased during his employment with the Sheriff’s Office, the current internal investigation is appropriate.”