As killer fired on Kansas undersheriff, two men performed selfless acts of bravery

Shot in the neck during a traffic stop, Undersheriff Chad Murphy was saved by two Good Samaritans who were driving by when the officer was attacked


By Michael Stavola
The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. — A man who risked his life to save the Rice County undersheriff is scheduled to receive an award from the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association in December after he and another Good Samaritan stepped in while the officer was being gunned down by a meth-fueled killer.

The events that transpired that day caused trauma for both men who stopped to help, but they are growing stronger as time passes — as is Undersheriff Chad Murphy.

That April 29 evening, Michael Craven Sr. had just gotten off work at the co-op and stopped at the Casey’s convenience store on the outskirts of Sterling for gas and a drink before heading home. It was just before 5:10 p.m.

William Cundith was also driving home, as was Murphy, who had just finished his shift and pulled into Casey’s for a Diet Dr. Pepper.

That’s where Murphy spotted David Lee Madden, a man wanted by state agents, who had found pipe bombs and a machine gun at the Madden’s home.

Murphy had run-ins with Madden before, including a 2017 car chase over two counties where Madden had tried to ram a patrol car. Murphy figured the 37-year-old former U.S. Marine would do what he did in 2017 — run.

He waited until the car Madden was riding in pulled out of Casey’s to make the stop. But instead of running, the driver, Madden’s girlfriend, who had her 7-year-old son in the backseat, stopped across the street from the convenience store.

Murphy approached the car and asked Madden to step out, intending to arrest him. Instead, Madden leaned out of the passenger seat and opened fire.

The first shot hit Murphy in the throat, paralyzing his right arm.

Murphy reached across with his left arm to draw his weapon, but a second shot hit him in the left shoulder before he could unclip his handgun.

“This one (the first one) felt like a big-ass ball peen hammer, struck me right in the throat and a hot poker going through it,” Murphy said. “I felt that (the second shot) explode like someone put my shoulder on an anvil and hit me with a sledgehammer.”

As Murphy retreated for cover behind his truck, a third shot hit him in the back. A fourth hit his hip and exited his stomach, and he hit the ground.

Craven, 50, was getting back in his truck at the store when the shooting started. He hit the gas, raced across the street and pulled in behind Murphy’s truck.

Cundith was driving past when he saw Madden walking toward Murphy, still shooting. The 41-year-old made a U-turn and also pulled in behind the undersheriff’s truck.

Neither had a plan; they saw someone in trouble and reacted.

The undersheriff said he made peace with God, figuring Madden was coming to finish him off.

But the next person he saw was Craven, who let Murphy know he was there to help.

Murphy thinks the tire squealing from Cundith and Craven pulling up scared Madden off.

Within seconds after the last shot, Craven was pressing his fingers into Murphy’s neck to keep pressure on the wound. Craven, a U.S. Air Force veteran with first-aid knowledge, used his knee to keep Murphy on his side to keep the undersheriff’s airway open.

Craven reached over and radioed in that Murphy had been shot. Cundith called 911. He pulled off his hoodie and positioned it under the undersheriff’s head for comfort.

“I owe them my life,” Murphy said.

Officer down

Murphy had limited use of his arms after the first two shots, but he had mustered up the strength to radio in while he lay on the ground. The 48-year-old U.S. Army veteran, his voice raspy from being shot in the throat, was barely audible.

Rice County Sheriff Byrant Evans heard Murphy’s distress call while flipping burgers at an American Legion event. It’s on the opposite end of town - about 1.5 miles away - and caddy-corner to Murphy’s home.

The undersheriff’s wife, Angela Murphy, was on the phone with her husband when he pulled Madden over. Knowing Madden led officers on a chase in 2017, she figured he would run. That meant her husband wouldn’t be bringing her a fountain drink anytime soon.

Angela and her 17-year-old son got in their van and headed into town for sodas. At the end of the driveway, she saw Evans take off from the American Legion with his lights on.

She figured Evans went to join what she assumed was a chase.

Close behind

Angela and her son made it to Casey’s as the undersheriff was being taken to the Rice County District Hospital around 5:17 p.m. — roughly seven minutes after the shooting. At Casey’s, people told Angela she needed to go to the scene across the street, where she was told her husband had been shot.

A Sterling police officer’s son drove Angela and her son to the hospital. She was brought into the emergency room, where her husband was surrounded by hospital staff. One person said they counted six holes.

“I felt my knees go,” Angela said. “My knees buckled.”

She started weeping.

Angela said her husband could hear her sobbing. In his damaged voice, Chad Murphy told the hospital staff that he needed to see his wife. She came up to the gurney and noticed his dark-colored uniform soaked in blood. Angela said Chad told her he was going to be all right.

When he said those words, blood spurted out of his neck, Angela said.

Medical staff cut off Murphy’s clothes and started to wheel him off when Chad turned to their son.

“Don’t ever get shot, it hurts,” Angela remembers Chad saying.

He was at the hospital for about 25 minutes before being taken to Wesley Medical Center.

Sheriff Evans wasn’t far behind Murphy for needing medical care.

Shooter gets guns and ammo, heads home

Evans asked for the license plate of the vehicle Murphy pulled over. Once dispatch relayed the information, Evans knew who had shot the undersheriff.

Evans was heading to Madden’s home when he got a call from Alden Fire Chief Russell Kocher, who heard the dispatched information about the shooting.

Kocher said he saw Madden at his home, loading a laundry basket full of guns and ammunition into the trunk of the car. When Madden and his girlfriend drove off, Kocher followed.

When Madden pulled in the driveway of his childhood home in rural Raymond, Kocher stopped on the side of the road. He saw Madden start chasing his father, Tom Madden, around the yard, shooting at him.

The girlfriend got back into the car and drove off, without Madden. Kocher followed. As he passed the house, shots rang out and hit his Dodge truck six times.

Then Evans arrived. It was roughly 5:40 p.m., about 30 minutes after Murphy had been shot.

Evans also heard a few shots as he went by the house, then felt a “horse-kicking” pain in his left leg. The bullet went through the door of his patrol vehicle, into his left leg and out the other side.

Evans drove a bit further and created a barrier with another deputy vehicle. As shots continued to fire from the Madden residence, an officer took Evans out of the firing zone. He was transported to the hospital.

At around 12:10 a.m. on April 30, officers holstered their weapons. Tom Madden’s body was found on the main floor. He had been fatally shot in the chest — and shot in the leg after he died, according to his autopsy.

David Madden was found on the second floor, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His toxicology report showed he had methamphetamine, amphetamine, THC and Oxycodone in his system.

Going home

Sterling Police Chief Derrick Ploutz visited Chad Murphy at Wesley Medical Center.

“He couldn’t even raise his arm to shake my hand at the time,” Ploutz said.

Ploutz took a black bracelet with a thin blue line — representing law enforcement — off and put it on Murphy. He told him, “we got this.”

“You have that thin blue line behind ya.”

The Sterling Police Department and surrounding agencies filled in covering the county while the Rice County Sheriff’s Office was out its two top officials.

Cards and calls came in from around the country to wish Evans and Murphy a speedy recovery.

Evans returned to work three days after being shot in the leg. Murphy returned home from the hospital the day after that. He was led from Wichita to his home on the outskirts of Sterling by a convoy of area law enforcement.

The Lyons Fire Department set up a truck in his yard with an American flag hanging at the end of an extended ladder. People covered the lawn in the town of roughly 2,200 people.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye out in the crowd,” Murphy said.

Healing

At first, Craven and Cundith both struggled with what they saw. It led to random, tear-filled breakdowns.

Friends and community members talked Cundith through. He said he feels better as time passes.

Craven sought professional counseling, saying the event triggered trauma from his time in the military.

On Dec. 3, Craven is scheduled to receive the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association Citizens Award at Sterling College, where he now works.

Doctors never told the Murphys if Craven’s quick response saved the undersheriff’s life. They suspect it did.

“We just kinda assume it was a blessing that he showed up,” Angela Murphy said.

Return date

Murphy has talked with both Craven and Cundith since the shooting. Cundith said they sobbed together.

The undersheriff says he owes them his life for coming to his aid.

“I did make peace with God after the fourth shot, because I assumed he was on his way up to finish the job,” Murphy said. “But then I had people show up, and I believe that’s what made him leave.”

The Rice County Commission later wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Lyons News thanking the two “young men” who “undoubtedly saved Chad’s life by immediately running to him after he was shot, while the shooter was still there … Your bravery was truly heroic and we and the community thank you!”

Fundraisers were set up to help with Murphy’s medical costs. Residents and people from area churches brought food and cut Murphy’s lawn. Rice County employees donated paid time-off to Murphy so he can keep his medical benefits.

Murphy will never fully recover from the shooting, Angela said.

Angela posted a picture on Facebook of him cradling their newborn granddaughter with his left arm. His left arm has made enough progress with physical therapy that he uses it to cut his meat.

Angela said he will use his left arm to cut the Thanksgiving turkey, but it will be a “little bit sloppier than normal.”

His right arm has caused the most problems, preventing him from returning to work. Angela said they hope his mobility will reach 75 percent, one day.

He hopes to make it back to work by April 29, 2020 — one year after the shooting. But he needs to be able to hold his right arm outright on his own strength before he can return.

The bright side, Murphy said, is the change in his perspective.

“The grass is greener. The sky is bluer,” he said. “I don’t look for the negatives anymore. I look for the positives.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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