Feds: Career Criminal Nearly Killed Philadelphia SWAT Officer

May 5, 2022Carl Prine
Philadelphia SWAT

Investigators say the ceramic plate inside Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactical Unit Officer Donald Murdoch’s vest saved his life after he was shot on Feb. 11, 2022, while serving an arrest warrant. US Department of Justice photo.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday, May 4, charged a career criminal for trying to gun down a Philadelphia SWAT officer.

If convicted on the firearms and drug offenses, Kristian Reyes, 35, could spend the rest of his life behind bars. The minimum mandatory sentence is 35 years in a federal penitentiary.

At 12:35 p.m. on Feb. 11, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactical Unit arrived at 182 W. Lehigh Avenue in the Fairhill neighborhood to arrest Reyes for parole and probation violations. Reyes’ lengthy rap sheet dates to 2007 and includes multiple convictions for drug dealing.

Officers knocked on his apartment door and yelled, “Police with a warrant!” and, hearing no response, began walking up a narrow staircase to his third-floor flat, according to court records.

SWAT Officer Donald Murdoch tried the apartment’s door, but it was locked. While other officers called for a battering ram, Murdoch said he heard multiple “pops,” and then felt “a stinging sensation” in his chest. He looked down and realized he’d been shot.

Prosecutors said another officer had screamed, “He’s shooting! Donny, get out!” before Reyes jumped from his third-floor window to the second floor, a pistol in one hand and a cell phone in the other. SWAT officers ordered Reyes to drop the weapon, but they say he refused to comply.

According to court documents, SWAT officers fired at least two shots at him. They missed, but Reyes allegedly tossed his firearm and ammo in different directions and the standoff ended. He was transported to Einstein Medical Center for injuries incurred from his jump out of the window.

SWAT medical officers rushed Murdoch to Temple University Hospital. When investigators recovered the officer’s ballistic vest, they found a 9mm round lodged just below the stenciled words, “PHILA SWAT.”

They credited the vest’s ceramic plate with saving Murdoch’s life.

In the aftermath of the shooting, officers recovered a black Glock G17 9mm semi-automatic pistol with one live round in the chamber; a magazine with 10 rounds of 9mm ammo in it; and in the apartment, a spent cartridge casing and multiple magazines and boxes of both 9mm and .40 caliber ammunition.

Then, they started inventorying the alleged narcotics in the apartment. They tallied 4,957 grams of the synthetic opiate fentanyl, much of it being sold under the “Magic Bullet” label, and 1,888 grams of marijuana marketed under the street brand “Hulk.”

There also were 305 bars of the tranquilizer Xanax, 215 grams of powdered cocaine, 37 grams of crack cocaine packaged into knotted baggies and flip-top containers, nearly 15 grams of methamphetamines, and 9.6 grams of heroin to be sold in stamped bags bearing the “Starbucks” logo, according to the inventory.

They also hauled out scales, a pill press, and $2,875 in cash.

On Feb. 11, Reyes was booked into the Philadelphia Department of Prisons’ Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on a $3.5 million bond after Pennsylvania prosecutors charged him with 13 crimes, including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault, assault on a law enforcement officer, drug dealing, and receiving stolen property.

Those charges were withdrawn on Thursday and his incarceration status was changed to a federal hold, no bond.

No attorney has been appointed to represent Reyes.

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Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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