A Jasper County deputy who was shot serving a search warrant on a room at the Econo Lodge in Joplin is suing the motel for providing a room key that did not work, resulting in his attempt to gain entry through a window.
Joplin attorney Ed Hershewe filed the lawsuit in Jasper County Circuit Court on behalf of Deputy Nolan Murray and his wife, Megan Murray. The legal action names the motel manager and Elliot Lodging, Econo Operations and Choice Hotels International as defendants.
Murray, 28, was shot in his side as he reached through the window of Room 222 to pull its curtains aside in the act of serving the warrant March 1 of last year at the motel, 3510 S. Range Line Road, with other members of the Ozarks Drug Enforcement Team. The round passed through a lung and lodged in his back.
The occupant of the room, E.F. Fitchpatrick Jr., 44, of St. Louis, remains charged with first-degree assault, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm.
The narcotics team had the room under surveillance for suspected drug activity and had obtained a search warrant based on the arrests of another man and woman who came out of the room a couple of hours earlier and left the motel in a vehicle that had been reported stolen in Springfield.
The lawsuit alleges that when the drug enforcement team went to the motel and informed management that they were there to serve the warrant, they were refused the master key to the room and given a tenant key instead. The tenant key did not work and would not open the door, according to the lawsuit.
Murray knocked on the door, and no one answered.
The lawsuit states: "Because plaintiff Murray could not open the door with the key defendants had given him, he was forced to obtain entry to the room through a window."
The petition to sue claims the motel and its management "have a pattern and practice of refusing to give the master key to law enforcement." The suit alleges that the defendants failed to exercise "appropriate precautions to prevent injury to plaintiff Murray" and exposed him to "greater danger" by maintaining that practice and failing to give him the master key, by giving him a key that did not work and misrepresenting to him that the key was the key to the room.
The suit claims Murray sustained "painful, permanent, progressive and disabling" injuries and incurred medical expenses, lost wages and inconveniences due to those injuries.
No dollar figure
The lawsuit filed by Deputy Nolan Murray and his wife places no dollar figure on the compensation being sought for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of consortium suffered by his wife and punitive damages.