Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed After Man Hit with Taser by CHP Dies in Custody

SACRAMENTO -- The family of a man who died after California Highway Patrol officers hit him with a taser has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers involved.

According to CHP, they found Christopher Murphy at the scene of a wrong-way crash in December 2016, leading to a confrontation with police, and ultimately ending in the 41-year-old’s death.

Murphy’s loved ones say they have spent the better part of a year trying to get basic of information about what led to his death. Now they are looking to the court system to produce answers.

When Murphy died suddenly in CHP custody after officers hit him with a taser, his ex-wife Kristina Compher says it was horrible for his family to bear, and nearly a year later, she says their family cannot move forward without a full explanation of his death.

“I need to know what happened, why it happened,” said Compher.

Dec. 7, just before 11:30 p.m. a wrong-way driver was reported on I-5 south of Airport Boulevard, according to a news release from CHP’s Woodland office. The wrong-way driver collided with another car. When officers arrived, they found a man, later identified as Murphy, walking in and out of traffic.

According to the CHP, Murphy struggled with officers and they used a taser on him. He then became unresponsive and he was taken to the hospital where he died.

Compher says she has been unable to obtain further information from law enforcement, including any body camera or dash camera video that may have recorded the incident. She says she has not even seen an autopsy saying what actually killed the father of five.

“If he did something that was wrong, why not just tell me so I can figure out how to address it and how to address it to my children? When I don’t have any answers to tell my children about what happened it makes it even harder for me,” said Compher.

Wednesday, attorneys Melissa Nold and John Burris filed a federal lawsuit naming two of the CHP officers they say were involved in Murphy’s death. The suit alleges wrongful death, violation of Murphy’s civil rights and excessive force including using a chokehold and hog-tying Murphy.

From the outset, CHP has been tight-lipped about Murphy’s death.

CHP offices typically issue detailed press releases within a day of a major collision, including information such as names of people involved (surviving parties in the case of fatal crashes), make and model of vehicles involved and a what led up to the crash. However, in the case of the Dec. 7 incident, CHP’s Woodland office issued a press release more than a week later with few details about the collision.

When FOX40 inquired Thursday regarding details such as information about the cause of the collision and the other car involved, a CHP spokesperson still refused to provide that information citing the pending lawsuit.

CHP spokesperson Rodney Fitzhugh told FOX40 the CHP has completed their internal investigation and turned it over to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office for review. Fitzhugh told FOX40 no officers were placed on leave following Murphy’s death.

A spokesperson for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office tells FOX40 they did not receive all of the necessary documents from CHP until October, about 10 months after Christopher Murphy died. They say they are now reviewing the case and will make public their findings once their review is completed.