FBI Director Christopher Wray, during a visit to the bureau’s Baltimore field office Wednesday, defended the agency’s lack of transparency in its investigation into the shooting death of Roy McGrath.

It’s been more than three months since McGrath, the former aide to Gov. Larry Hogan who was poised to stand trial on fraud and embezzlement, died in a confrontation with FBI agents in Tennessee after evading law enforcement for three weeks. The FBI called it an “agent-involved shooting,” but has provided no other information as the internal investigation continues.

Wray would not discuss the case, but said he gets briefed when an investigation is close to wrapping up and had not been given such a briefing. He said the investigation would be thorough and takes time.

“It’s not surprising to me, even though it might be surprising to you, that you wouldn’t be getting information about an ongoing shooting review,” Wray said. “We take great pains to be very meticulous about how we do those.”

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McGrath’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, said the FBI should be more forthcoming.

“In my humble opinion, it doesn’t appear to be a complicated investigation. The events that led to Mr. McGrath’s death appeared to have only taken anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour,” Murtha said. “We’re not necessarily asking for an extensive report regarding how they determined his whereabouts and how they accessed information that led them to him. We are simply interested in what caused his death — how did he die.”

Wray’s visit to the Baltimore field office in Woodlawn was part of his ongoing efforts to visit all 56 of the bureau’s field offices across the country.

Accompanied by his chief of staff, Maryland’s former Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner, he was briefed on investigations and met with a group of police chiefs and other law enforcement leaders, including U.S. Attorney Erek Barron, Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley and Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough.

He noted that the FBI relies on local police officers who work for the bureau as task force officers, and that the ranks of such officers have grown considerably in recent years.

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The Banner was not provided access to their meeting beyond Wray’s introductory remarks, but Wray said afterwards that they discussed concerns about staffing, recruiting and retention, and violent crime trends, including the role of youths and mental health. Attendees also asked about threats related to artificial intelligence.

Wray said he hears similar concerns around the country, but he said the chiefs here also talked about mentorship and professional development of officers.

“That sort of stood out to me as a pretty forward-thinking theme for them,” Wray said.

Wray emphasized the importance of law enforcement partnerships and “maximizing impact.”

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“In general, you find when you can come up with a strategy where everybody is putting their heads together — one team, one fight, focusing on being proactive — that’s how you can have an impact that is not only more likely to last, instead of a whack-a-mole effect, but also, surprisingly, you can have an impact fairly quickly,” he said. “A lot of people think that focusing on building big cases, dismantling some gang like the N.F.L. gang [in Baltimore], some people think there’s got to be a tradeoff of short-term success versus long-term success.

“But in fact, we have found that you can have pretty rapid, meaningful impact on making neighborhoods feel safer and actually be safer when you put those two things together.”

He said agents and task force officers in Baltimore have made more than 200 violent crime arrests this year.

“That’s a big dent,” he said.

justin.fenton@thebaltimorebanner.com

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Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries. 

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