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Reflecting on the Pastor
by Sarah Cooper
Jul 22, 2009 | 2401 views | 1 1 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Former Sparks police chaplain Pastor Ray Murray said he's not afraid of retirement. "For type A people, retirement can be scary. I'm more of a type Z," Murray joked.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Former Sparks police chaplain Pastor Ray Murray said he's not afraid of retirement. "For type A people, retirement can be scary. I'm more of a type Z," Murray joked.
Ray Murray has seen more dead bodies and more emotional pain than the average Sparks resident.

But even after 22 years as a chaplain with the Sparks police and fire departments, the hundreds of horrified surviving faces are not what is etched on his consciousness.

“You deal with a lot of stuff,” Murray said of his tenure as a chaplain. “But it is just the energy of being with the people … that kept me going for 22 years.”

In January, Murray retired. On Monday at the Sparks Police Department, the public safety veteran was honored with cake, commendations and a few friendly handshakes.

Since the beginning of the Sparks chaplains program in 1987, Murray has volunteered his time toward helping both officers and civilians cope at tragic scenes. He has been the first responder for emotionally jarred victims.

“He has been a great asset to our department,” Sparks Police officer Ryan Simpson said. “He calms us down and allows us to do our jobs.”

In 22 years, Murray has witnessed the story behind the story on many of Sparks’ most jarring events.

In January, Simpson and officer Jose Zendejas shot and killed an elderly woman when she opened fire on the officers at her home. The Washoe County district attorney’s office ruled in February that the officers were justified in their self-defense. Murray was there to calm the officers after the fact.

In January 2008, state Trooper Kara Kelly-Borgognone was killed in a car crash while in the line of duty. Kelly-Borgognone was a friend of many in the Sparks Police Department, including Det. Dorothy Peterson and her husband, also a state trooper. Peterson said Monday that Murray helped after that situation.

On May 22, 1995, Sparks Police Officer Larry Johnson became the first, and only, Sparks officer to be killed in the line of duty. Murray was on vacation on that May day, but helped with the aftermath of the event.

“They can talk to us (chaplains) knowing that what they say wont go in any police report,” Murray said. “Not even the chiefs can know. But, then again, no one has ever asked.”

The Sparks police and fire departments currently employ five chaplains – all local pastors who work for Sparks public safety departments on an on-call, volunteer basis.

These men, from various churches and religions across Sparks, are on call whenever an incident occurs – day or night.

Murray found it easier to just ride along with police and fire officials whenever he could.

“I would be a part of as much as I could,” Murray said. “Just so you have a chance to be there. By just being a part of it … you work your way into a position where you are accepted and belong.”

Some of these excursions included police training exercises, where Murray missed his pistol certification by two shots.

“I probably know as much as one of the officers,” Murray said with a chuckle.

Murray was paid for part-time work by the city of Sparks between July 2004 and January of this year. However, a sweeping city budget cut threatened to reduce his part-time position and pay. So rather than being a victim of the layoffs, Murray decided it was about time to retire.

“A full-time chaplain usually means that you are working for a big city or a combination of large jurisdictions,” Murray said, explaining that it is not usual for chaplains in his position to receive a salary.

Murray often went with the officers to the scene of a crime.

“I have been in situations with drawn guns, but there was never any shooting,” Murray said.

While Sparks’ chaplains carry badges for official identification, they are not sworn officers.

“One of the kinds of chaplains we don’t want is a wannabe officer,” Murray said. “They do their jobs and we do ours.”

While Sparks police and fire officials are trained in conflict situations, according to Murray, they are not trained to handle emotionally tense situations.

“They are very good at putting out fires and catching the bad guys,” Murray said. “But put them in a situation where they have to deliver a death notice and it is a whole different ball game.”

“It’s not easy to give people bad news,” Sparks Det. John Patton said. “He makes it a lot easier.”

“It was always a pleasure to have Ray as a part of the police family,” former Sparks Police Chief John Dotson said.
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Mike Hanson
July 22, 2009
Wonderful story pastor and we, the citizens of Sparks thank you as well for so much that you have done.

Listen, just a thought. Maybe, now that you have some time in your hands you will consider giving these gang kids a hand with respect to their need which is a facility or place where they can turn to, so that they can be surrounded with people that care about them rather than those who don't.

I've done some research on the anti gang activist Mr. Roberto Nerey, I've even called him up and guess what, he really does need your help. Call it devine intervention or a duty you must play, this is important work and you are needed. I hope you can contact Mr. Nerey so that we, some of us who are here trying to assist his cause as well, can get the opportunity to meet you personally.

You can reach Roberto Nerey at

God bless you,

Mike Hanson

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