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Mich. fire chief, arrested for drunken driving, gets second chance

Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray had been placed on leave following his arrest in August


Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray. (Dearborn Fire Department/Facebook)

By Jackie Martin
The News Herald

DEARBORN, Mich. — While uncertainty remains about any future charges for a fire chief under scrutiny for an alleged drunken driving arrest, he has been reinstated and is back on the job.

It’s been two months since Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray was placed on leave. He also oversees fire operations in Melvindale as the two departments merged.

Murray was arrested at about 2:44 a.m. Aug. 29 in the area of Telegraph and Dartmouth in Dearborn Heights.

[PREVIOUSLY: Mich. fire chief on administrative leave following arrest]

That is when a Dearborn Heights officer reported seeing Murray weaving across the roadway and traveling 15 mph over the speed limit.

According to police and bodycam footage, he was slurring his words and refused to take a Breathalyzer test.

Police said Murray told them 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.”

He was arrested and taken to a hospital for blood work.

At the time, it was expected that a charging decision would be made pending the outcome of the blood toxicity report.

No report has been submitted to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review, yet Murray has resumed his position,

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud responded to questions about bringing Murray back to the job while possible legal issues have yet to be resolved.

“After careful consideration, my administration has decided to reinstate Joseph Murray as chief of the Dearborn Fire Department,” the mayor said in a written statement. “Chief Murray returned to work yesterday, Oct. 30, 2023.

“The choice to retain Chief Murray derives from balancing a two-decades-long career in public service and the humility to not evaluate an individual in their darkest moments. I am confident that Dearborn residents will be served well by Chief Murray as he works towards continuing his duties in full.”

The mayor offered his sincerest thanks and gratitude to Deputy Fire Chief Laura Ridenour, who has been standing in during Murray’s absence, and Dearborn’s assistant fire chiefs.

He noted their “selfless” leadership and sacrifices, saying they have not gone unnoticed.

A message requesting comment on the status of the warrant request from the Dearborn Heights Police Department was not returned.

A voicemail message was left for Murray requesting a comment about being back on the job, but it also was not returned.

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