Roy McGrath, the former top aide to Gov. Larry Hogan, skipped his federal fraud trial in Baltimore and evaded authorities for weeks before FBI agents tracked his car to a Costco Wholesale store outside Knoxville, Tennessee.
The agents shouted for McGrath to put his hands out the driver’s side window, Tennessee prosecutors wrote in a report released Friday.
“McGrath replied, ‘No,’ and, ‘I have a gun, and it’s loaded,’” they wrote.
At that moment, McGrath, 53, raised a gun to his head. The way he held the gun, prosecutors wrote, put agents within the line of fire.
“Simultaneously, McGrath fired his gun striking his right temple, and the agent fired one round striking McGrath’s left cheek,” prosecutors wrote.
Friday’s report from the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office presents the first account of McGrath’s death April 3. Knox County medical examiners conducted an autopsy, but have been unable to determine whether McGrath or the agent fired the fatal shot.
Tennessee prosecutors said they found no reason to bring criminal charges against the FBI agent who opened fire.
“That agent acted in self-defense because he had a reasonable belief that McGrath posed a threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury,” the office said.
The local prosecutors in Tennessee review all law enforcement shootings in Knox County.
“It’s consistent with what I had anticipated,” said Joseph Murtha, McGrath’s attorney. “It is really sad — I think Roy came to a point in his life where his sense of betrayal led to a place of darkness that he never escaped, resulting in his death.”
McGrath’s wife, Laura Bruner, said through her lawyer that she appreciated Knox County prosecutors for sharing their investigation results with her before releasing the findings publicly. Bruner declined to comment further.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee is also reviewing the actions of the agents. The local and federal prosecutors decide whether the agents broke state or federal laws. Once both reviews are complete, the FBI administrative review board will review the agents’ conduct to determine whether they followed the bureau’s policies. The review process is expected to continue into the fall.
Knox County prosecutors said they are withholding the agent’s name while the additional reviews continue.
McGrath’s autopsy was also unsealed Friday. A copy obtained by The Baltimore Banner shows McGrath died at a Tennessee hospital about 25 minutes after paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting. Medical examiners were unable to determine whether McGrath died of homicide, meaning death at the hands of another, or suicide.
He was wearing a grey plaid short-sleeve shirt, blue pants, tan sneakers and carrying $1.07 in change in his pocket, according to the autopsy report. The report makes no mention of his wallet, cellphones, or items in the car. He had grown a black-grey mustache and beard. A toxicology report showed caffeine and antidepressant medication in his blood.
McGrath resigned as chief of staff to former Gov. Larry Hogan amid controversy over a payout of more than $230,000 that he negotiated when he transferred to the governor’s office from the state’s environmental service. A subsequent investigation found McGrath carried out a scheme to enrich himself personally by defrauding the government, prosecutors alleged.
A federal grand jury indicted McGrath in October 2021 on charges of fraud, theft and falsifying records. He was also charged in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court with misconduct in office, embezzlement and wiretapping. Prosecutors accused him of recording other government officials, including Hogan, without their consent.
There has been much speculation about what Hogan and state officials said on those calls, but Maryland’s wiretapping law forbids authorities from releasing the recordings.
McGrath was scheduled to stand trial March 13 in Baltimore. When the 9 a.m. start time arrived, he didn’t show.
He spent the next three weeks evading the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. Federal authorities offered $20,000 for information leading to his arrest and came to focus their search on the southern U.S. states.
His whereabouts during those three weeks remain unknown.
With McGrath missing, a self-published e-book titled “Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath” went on sale online. The unknown author, who gave the name “Ryan C. Cooper,” claimed the book was based on McGrath’s own manuscript and their interviews from months prior to his disappearance. The book jumped to No. 4 among Amazon’s 100 bestsellers in “Political Commentary & Opinion.”
A sequel published one week later recounted McGrath’s time at the Maryland Environmental Service. The author promised a third book once more was known about McGrath’s location. Speculation swirled that the author could be McGrath himself.
The third book has not appeared.
Reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.