FBI concludes investigation into shooting death of Roy McGrath and refers case to prosecutors

Published 7/20/2023 2:51 p.m. EDT, Updated 7/20/2023 6:51 p.m. EDT

Roy McGrath FBI wanted poster.

The FBI has concluded its investigation into the death of Roy McGrath more than three months after the fugitive former Maryland government official was shot and killed outside Knoxville, Tennessee.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office confirmed Thursday that agents have concluded the investigation and referred their findings to local and federal prosecutors for review. It’s the first time authorities have disclosed the status of their investigation into McGrath’s death in April.

The spokesman, however, declined to provide the investigation file. The results are expected to remain confidential while prosecutors complete routine reviews to determine whether the agents’ conduct was justified.

Later Thursday, the Baltimore Field Office issued a statement to clarify that the FBI does not consider the case completed because the investigatory file must also be submitted to the bureau’s Shooting Incident Review Board. The board would determine whether the agents’ conduct was in line with FBI policy.

FBI Director Christopher Wray visited the bureau’s Baltimore field office on Wednesday, but said he was unable to discuss the case and knew of no timeline for when the public would learn more.

Many questions remain about McGrath’s death. The FBI has described the encounter as an “agent-involved shooting,” but it remains unknown whether McGrath shot himself or was shot and killed by agents. His autopsy remained sealed Thursday under an order from the courts.

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 federal 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 did not show.

An hour and half later, sheriff’s deputies in Florida had been dispatched to look for McGrath at his house. They knocked on the door of his home in a gated community in Naples. Body camera video obtained by The Baltimore Banner shows the deputies speaking to McGrath’s wife.

“He’s in Maryland,” Laura Bruner told them. “He left this morning at like 5 or 6. I was sleeping, and he got a ride to the airport.”

The exchange suggested McGrath kept secret his intention to skip trial and take off. He never bought a plane ticket or made a reservation to depart that morning, FBI agents wrote in a search warrant.

McGrath 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 about the author’s identity. A third book has not been released.

Federal agents tracked McGrath to an area more than 800 miles from his home. They tracked him through a known Cadillac and multiple cellphones McGrath had been using, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

On April 3, agents confronted him in the suburbs of Knoxville. McGrath was shot and killed.

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