Homeless man on pre-trial release arrested at Headquarters Library, charged with attacks at Sweetwater Branch Park and St. Francis House

Staff report

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rodney Antonio Murray, Jr., 39, was arrested yesterday and charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery causing bodily harm, drug possession, burglary, battery, and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon related to two different incidents, one that took place at St. Francis House Wednesday night and one at Sweetwater Branch Park around noon on Thursday.

At about 10 p.m. Wednesday night, Murray reportedly got into an argument outside St. Francis House with a woman who told a Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officer that she refused to give him money for “molly.” She said Murray became angry with her and hit her in the back with a sharp stick. Another person saw the incident and opened the door to let the woman into the building.

Murray allegedly began pulling at the door handle of St. Francis House and eventually pulled the door open and walked inside. The woman told the officer that Murray raised his shirt, showing a knife in his waistband, and said, “I’m going to kill you.” The other person pushed the woman into the dining room to protect her and said that Murray again flashed the knife and threatened to kill him. A witness told the officer that she saw Murray tell both victims he was going to kill them. Murray left before the officer arrived.

At about noon on Thursday, a different GPD officer responded to Sweetwater Branch Park, where a man told the officer he had been sitting near the creek on a bench when Murray asked him why he was staring at him. The victim said he felt uncomfortable and decided to leave the park, but as he passed Murray, Murray attacked him, punching him on the side of the face. The victim, whose account was reportedly corroborated by a witness, said Murray punched him six or seven times.

The victim said Murray then pulled out a kitchen knife and told him to empty his pockets. Murray allegedly put the victim into a headlock and slammed him on the ground; the victim said he was afraid he would be stabbed but was eventually able to break free. The victim said Murray continued to demand that he empty his pockets while grabbing his pockets.

The victim said he walked southwest toward the federal court building, trying to get away from Murray, and a worker in the area (the witness) told Murray to leave the victim alone. The victim said that while the witness was talking to Murray, he moved to the steps of the court building, pleading with bystanders along the way for help.

The victim said Murray pursued him all the way to the courthouse steps and showed the officer a three-inch cut on his arm. The witness corroborated the victim’s account except that he did not see a knife until he saw Murray pick up a knife near a bench and walk away.

Officers reportedly found Murray in the Headquarters Library and arrested him. A search incident to arrest reportedly produced about half a gram of cocaine; Murray reportedly stated spontaneously that the substance was “molly.”

Post Miranda, Murray said the victim had been staring, taking pictures of him, and trying to antagonize him in the park. He acknowledged getting into a physical fight with the victim but reportedly refused to say whether he had told the victim to empty his pockets.

Murray was arrested on May 17 for allegedly taking a backpack and phone from a woman he had been dating. He was held in the jail on $5,000 bail until June 20, when Judge James Colaw granted a motion to release him on his own recognizance. His lawyer promised in the motion that he would stay at St. Francis House; Murray’s address on the arrest reports is listed as GRACE Marketplace.

He was also charged with stealing and pawning a bicycle in March, but the charges were dropped.

Murray has been in the area for about seven months. He has three felony convictions (one violent) and 12 misdemeanor convictions (three violent); he served a two-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault with a weapon in Putnam County and was released in 2015. Judge Susan Miller-Jones set bail at $425,000.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • Nothing is going to change, even when they convert Grace Marketplace into their transitional program for folks released from jail. Lock up the criminals and throw away the key!

  • Catch & release doesn’t work, maybe Smith & Wesson can.

    The system is releasing threats to society, to our families; protect yourselves, the people our taxes pay for, the people we’ve elected aren’t.

  • Police arrest them, procecutors release them, citizens get traumatized, revolving door, round ‘n round we go

  • Fat Harvey and Commissioners. Is anyone on home base fighting crime? Or are you to busy Circling the Wagons suing GRU Customers and the State?

  • His dealer sold him the wrong drug. GPD field tested it as cocaine but homeless man said “it was molly” lol…

  • San Francisco…..here we come…..if the loony libs have their misguided ways.

  • For a change Judge Miller Jones set a decent bail. Hopefully this lunatic won’t be out on the streets anytime soon.

  • Obviously, he came here from backward Putnam so he could learn to improve his skills with the help of our more advanced NGOs.

  • And, since he can not post that $425K bail, he will be ROR in a month. Can’t keep someone in jail JUST because they don’t have bail money

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