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Mich. fire chief on administrative leave following arrest

Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray was taken to a hospital for a blood draw after refusing a Breathalyzer test


Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray.

Dearborn Fire Department/Facebook

By Dave Herndon
Press & Guide

DEARBORN, Mich. — The city of Dearborn placed Fire Chief Joseph Murray on administrative leave on Aug. 30 pending his ongoing legal issues.

The announcement came about 30 hours after Murray was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

“Yesterday, the administration was notified of an incident involving our fire chief,” a statement from Mayor Abdullah Hammoud’s office said. “We are taking this matter seriously. As facts become known, we will take the appropriate course of action. At this time, the fire chief is on administrative leave.”

Deputy Fire Chief Laura Ridenouer has been put in charge on an interim basis.

The arrest happened in the area of Telegraph and Dartmouth in Dearborn Heights at 2:44 a.m. Aug. 29.

Murray was pulled over after he passed a police car while traveling about 15 mph over the speed limit. At the time he passed the police cruiser, he was allegedly weaving across the road.

Dearborn Heights Police Chief Jerrod Hart said his officers treated the stop like it was any other member of the public, and handled it the exact same as any traffic stop.

In bodycam footage of the stop, Murray can be seen slurring his words and stumbling. When asked where he had been drinking, he named a bar in Taylor that is about 3 1/2 miles from where the stop took place.

Murray was given a field sobriety test and then taken to an area hospital for a blood draw after refusing a Breathalyzer test.

“I feel like I need to wait for a lawyer,” Murray told police as they asked him to take the Breathalyzer. Police then notified him he was under arrest after his refusal.

Prior to making the arrest, Murray told officers he had four or five beers, to which one of the officers responded: “Let’s just be honest. You’re absolutely ripped. You’re hammered. Drunk. You can barely speak. You can barely stand up.”

Hart said a charging decision is pending the outcome of the blood toxicity report and that the Michigan State Police lab is handling that test.

Murray was in a personal vehicle, not a city truck, at the time of the traffic stop, police said.

Hart said Murray was taken back to the station after his trip to the hospital and released after a period of time, allowing him to detox.

Murray was named Dearborn fire chief in 2012 and is most notably known for orchestrating a merger with the Melvindale Fire Department, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary last week. He started with the department in 2004.

Murray gave a speech at the Fire Department in December 2021 about the dangers of drunken driving during an event to promote the Honoring Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act.

The HALT Act was written in direct response to the January 2019 death of an entire family at the hands of a drunken driver. Issam Abbas, 42; his wife, Dr. Rima Abbas, 38; and their three children, Ali, 13; Isabella, 12; and Giselle, 7, were formerly from Dearborn, but had lived in Northville for several years before a crash killed them all.

“Sometimes it’s a completely innocent person that’s been injured or killed or had a vehicle collision because of a drunk driver,” Murray said at the event. “With almost 10,000 deaths a year, this translates to about 30 people each day in the U.S. lose their lives to completely avoidable collisions.”

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