Police

WATCH: The Case of the Miami PD Parking Machine Puncher

Surveillance footage shows Miami police Sgt. Thomas Murray, accompanied by a companion he said he knew only as "Jessica," punching a parking machine.
Surveillance footage shows Miami police Sgt. Thomas Murray, accompanied by a companion he said he knew only as "Jessica," punching a parking machine. Screenshot via Miami Civilian Investigative Panel
Around 4 a.m. on August 28, 2021, an off-duty, inebriated Miami Police Department (MPD) sergeant arrived at a Hampton Inn following a night on the town and was attempting to pay for parking inside the hotel lobby when he ran into a problem: The automated parking machine was glitching.

Accompanied by a woman sporting heels and a nude bodycon dress, Sgt. Thomas Murray attempted to enter his information into the device, then drilled his fist into it before taking an elevator to the parking garage, where the woman, who he later said he knew only as "Jessica," exited in Murray's unmarked police car.

The scenes were captured on surveillance cameras and preserved for posterity on clips recently released to New Times by the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent board that reviews complaints of alleged police misconduct on the part of MPD.

"Sergeant Murray appeared to be unsteady and braced himself against the machine with both arms. Sergeant Murray punched the screen after he attempted to pay for parking but was unable to do so," reads the CIP's summary of its investigation.
"Approximately 5 minutes later, an unmarked police vehicle approached the automated machine at the exit of the parking structure. The vehicle's driver window lowered, and Sergeant Murray's female companion is seen reaching out from the driver's seat and pressing a button on the machine. The security gate opened, and the female companion drove out of the garage."
According to MPD's internal affairs investigation, the Hampton Inn's director of safety notified Miami police of the incident and submitted an invoice for $1,432 to repair the damaged machine. MPD's review of the surveillance footage found that the parking machine screen went white after Murray "struck it with a closed fist" and "jabbed it several times with his finger."

Internal affairs noted that "Murray admitted to having a few drinks earlier and was not in his usual state of mind. He admitted he did not use the best judgment in letting 'Jessica' drive his city-issued vehicle, but he stated he was not in any condition to drive. Sergeant Murray apologized, expressed remorse for his action, and advised this incident was extremely out of character for him."

Initially, the MPD referred the case to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office Public Corruption Unit, which found probable cause to arrest Murray for criminal mischief. But an MPD officer contacted the Hampton Inn to ask whether Murray could avoid prosecution by paying for the damage. When Murray wrote a check and the hotel agreed not to pursue charges, prosecutors dropped the criminal case.

According to the CIP agenda for its August 16 regular meeting, Murray was hired by MPD in 2005. Prior to the August 2021 run-in with the parking machine, his record indicates one citizen complaint and two use-of-force incidents.

The panel sustained the MPD's finding of misconduct and improper procedure in Murray's case. Ofc. Michael Vega, an MPD spokesperson, tells New Times that Murray received a reprimand and a suspension of 80 hours.
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca