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Former Ukiah police sergeant jailed, charged in two sex assault cases

A Ukiah police sergeant was forced to leave the department amid two investigations into sex crimes he’s accused of committing against women, one allegation involving a sexual assault at a hotel while he was on duty in November and the other involving a rape while armed with a gun in 2014.

Kevin Murray, 37, of Lakeport, was arrested in January and charged with felony sexual battery against a woman after gaining access to her hotel room on Nov. 25, according to police officials and court records.

Then Thursday, Murray, who had been released on bail, was jailed again on suspicion of committing felony crimes against a woman in 2014, including rape while carrying a firearm and oral copulation, court records show.

Murray remained in Mendocino County Jail Sunday on $500,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on the new charges in Mendocino County Superior Court.

The former law enforcement officer faces mounting legal woes with multiple criminal and civil charges against him, including a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging he used excessive force on a Ukiah man in 2018.

Murray had been with the Ukiah Police Department for about 10 years, starting as a patrol officer and promoted to sergeant in April.

“We reacted right away when we realized there was potential criminality,” Chief Justin Wyatt said about the November sex assault accusation that surfaced last week, which Wyatt said was immediately referred to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.

“We realized the gravity of what we learned,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt declined to provide information about the rape case from 2014, saying his department was not conducting an investigation into it. Murray was a police officer at that time, but the chief said he had no information to suggest he was on duty at the time of the alleged crimes. Wyatt said the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office was leading the investigations into both matters.

County District Attorney Dave Eyster, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the investigations because the cases against Murray are pending court matters.

Murray was working Nov. 25, 2020 when he is suspected of unlawfully gaining access to an occupied hotel room at the Super 8 on South Orchard Avenue in Ukiah, first with a key card and then by other means, according to a complaint filed Jan. 21 in Mendocino County Superior Court.

He is accused of forcing a woman in the room to touch his penis against her will and using his authority as a police sergeant to violate the woman’s civil rights, both felony crimes. He’s also charged with unlawful methamphetamine possession on Dec. 1, according to the complaint.

Wyatt said his department was contacted shortly after Nov. 25 about possible misconduct and they launched an internal investigation and alerted the county District Attorney’s Office.

Wyatt said Murray was first placed on paid leave Dec. 1. Following a two-month internal affairs investigation, Murray’s last day as a city employee was Jan. 28.

Wyatt said police privacy laws barred him from saying whether Murray resigned or was fired, though in a Jan. 29 video posted on social media the Ukiah Police Department announced Murray had been “taken off the force.”

“I want the community to know we acted swiftly and it’s because we took this matter seriously and in the matter in which it was happening that Murray is now answering in the criminal courts for his actions,” Wyatt said in the video.

Murray has been held to answer for the crimes after a preliminary hearing and is awaiting trial in that November rape and drug case related to his January arrest.

Few details were available regarding the 2014 case. Murray is accused of rape with possession of a gun and oral copulation against a woman, crimes that occurred between April 10 and June, according to a felony complaint prosecutors filed Feb. 22.

In a separate matter, Murray is accused of using excessive force against a Ukiah man in 2018 when the sergeant was responding to a 911 call from someone reporting an argument.

Chris Rasku, a 47-year-old disabled veteran, is suing the city alleging Murray violated his civil rights by unlawfully entering his home and using excessive force during that encounter, which left him with four broken ribs, a punctured lungs and other injuries.

Rasku alleged Murray lied on police reports about the initial encounter, which was captured on video by a bystander, according to the complaint filed Feb. 20, 2020 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Murray was called to the apartment complex on North Orchard Avenue on Oct. 13, 2018 by a resident who overheard an argument between two people about a dog.

Rasku had left a note on a neighbor’s door after her dog had been barking all day. The neighbor “returned home drunk and found the note,” and confronted a different neighbor about it, according to the complaint. Rasku tried to break up the argument and said he was the one who left the note.

Murray arrived to the scene and tried to talk with Rasku, who was standing inside the door to his apartment. Rasku declined to leave his apartment and "without exigency or other legal justification, Officer Murray charged at the door, throwing his shoulder into it,“ according to the complaint.

The door hit Rasku in the face, “knocking him unconscious and to the ground. Officer Murray entered Mr. Rasku’s home and began punching and kneeing and kicking him where he lay on the ground,” according to the document.

Murray and other officers carried Rasku out of his apartment without his shoes on and put him in the back seat of a patrol car, when Murray “shut the vehicle’s door on Mr. Rasku’s foot,” he claims.

Rasku was sent to Ukiah Valley Hospital and then was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he was treated for four days for his injuries, the complaint said.

In the complaint, Rasku claimed Murray had previously accused him of egging someone’s car, entered his apartment, searched his refrigerator “and claimed that Mr. Rasku’s eggs ”matched” the eggs found at the scene.“

Murray, in a response to the complaint filed May in federal court, denied allegations in the lawsuit including that Rasku was knocked unconscious, that he acted without justification or that he gave false information.

After being released from the hospital, Rasku was arrested on suspicion of felony resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped this year — more than two years after his arrest — after Murray’s body camera video was finally released from the incident, according to his attorney, Izaak Schwaiger.

The civil case is pending.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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