New Paltz is still reeling after a fatal shooting occurred at Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub early Easter morning, which left one man dead and a woman hospitalized. According to the New Paltz Police Department, officers on patrol observed a disturbance in front of Murphy’s and saw that two people had been shot inside — just shortly before 2 a.m.
The shooter escaped that morning. However, police arrested Basheem D. Bennett, 21, of Poughkeepsie, the evening of April 22. He was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault — both felonies.
Bennett was remanded to Ulster County Jail. He’s expected to return to New Paltz Town Court Monday, April 28. The county court will ultimately oversee the case.
They did confirm that two individuals were shot, and one — Ryan Gray, 29, of Poughkeepsie — was pronounced dead after being rushed to a nearby hospital. The 26-year-old female victim was reported to be in stable condition as of press time.
Police declined to release more information about the woman, citing a policy of keeping the identities of violent crime victims private.
As to the cause of the shooting, New Paltz police Chief Joseph Snyder said that it doesn’t appear to be a domestic incident.
Snyder stated that this was not a random act of violence nor the act of an active shooter running around town. “We believe that the victims and perpetrator were known to each other,” he said. “This incident is a spillover from some incidents in the City of Poughkeepsie. We also know that this incident did not take place due to an overcrowded bar filled with intoxicated people that began to fight and resulted in this shooting incident. This act just happened to take place where it did based on window of opportunity.”
During an April 23 press conference announcing the arrest, police and Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright said they believed the killing was in retaliation for the November 2013 murder of Alvin Hayles in Poughkeepsie.
Chief Snyder praised the work of the various law enforcement agencies who worked the case. He said that good police work led to Bennett’s arrest. Police and the DA declined to give specifics about how they made a break in the case.
Ryan Gray’s mother Lisa Gray was at the police station during that press conference. She told reporters that she was unaware of a link between her son and either Bennett or Hayles. However, police maintained there is one.
From the reports that the New Paltz Times has received from eyewitnesses, it appears that there was no obvious altercation or fight preceding the shooting. People there that night said in took place in the upstairs portion of the bar, where a DJ was playing music and patrons were dancing.
“It wasn’t like I was worried about getting shot,” said Morgan Young, an exchange student from Ireland who was there with two of his friends, also exchange students. One of his friends is from Jordan and the other from Turkey. “We didn’t hear any fighting or notice a scuffle. We were just having a nice time and heard two shots. But they weren’t loud — probably because of all the noise in the bar, the music playing, people talking.”
According to Young, he and his friends saw people running for the front door in a panic, and that’s when they knew that something had happened. “We ran to the front door and actually had to push people forward, out of the door, because they were pushing each other to the side and it was difficult for anyone to get out.”
The owner of the bar, Kenneth Verney, released a statement the following morning, which was also posted on the front door of Murphy’s: “The management and staff of Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub are shocked and saddened by the events that took place in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 20. We express our heartfelt sympathy and extend our deepest condolences to the families that were affected by this tragic incident. We will continue to fully cooperate with the local and state agencies investigating this incident. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, we will have no additional comments at this time.”
On Monday, the bar was back open for business. Asked how the crime scene was cleared so quickly, Snyder said that “the crime scene was processed by NYS FIU [Forensic Investigation Unit]. All crime scenes can have a different amount of time to process based on the case, the type of search area, etc.
“We had it secured for about five hours. We had no reason to keep it secured after that, as all the processing was completed, gathered and documented. Murphy’s management were and continue to be very cooperative during this investigation and they want to see this solved as much as anyone else.”
SUNY New Paltz Campus Police Chief David Dugatkin released a statement that neither of the victims were students or employees of the college.