Witnesses saw man fire shots that killed well-known Richmond KY couple, police say

·2 min read

Richmond police have charged a Kentucky man with murder after he allegedly shot and killed the owners of the apartment where he was staying and set the building on fire, according to court records.

Thomas C. Birl, 51, was arrested Tuesday evening after he allegedly shot and killed a married couple — Christopher Hager, 54, and Gracie Hager, 52 — before barricading himself in an apartment, according to an arrest citation. Property records show the couple had purchased the duplex in mid-July.

Birl was charged with two counts of murder, arson, evidence tampering and criminal mischief, according to court records.

Police responded to the scene in the 200 block of Keystone Drive in Richmond around 2:20 p.m. and found the Hagers, according to Birl’s arrest citation. Three witnesses told police they heard gunshots and saw Birl firing a gun into a truck.

Gracie Hager was found dead inside the truck, according to Birl’s arrest citation.

Witnesses told police that after shooting Gracie Hager, Birl walked over to Christopher Hager, who was on the ground screaming after having already been shot. Witnesses said Birl fired at Christopher Hager again and shot him in the head, according to the arrest citation.

Birl went to the apartment and barricaded himself inside, according to the arrest citation.

According to court records, Birl wasn’t arrested until four hours after the shooting was first reported. During that time, Richmond police made efforts to get him out of his apartment before eventually executing a warrant on the building.

Richmond Police Chief Rodney Richardson said officers put “rounds of powdered gas” inside, which prompted Birl to come out about 6:30 p.m.

Birl had started the fire inside the apartment and “leaped” from the building as it was ablaze, according to court records.

The building “was nearly completely destroyed,” Jason Friend from the Richmond Police Department wrote in an arrest citation. The fire caused more than $100,000 worth of damage, Friend said. The property was valued at about $130,000 during the sale a few weeks earlier.

Police found 9 mm shell casings in the driveway of the apartment where witnesses said the shooting happened, according to court records. They also allegedly found a 9 mm bullet in the truck where Gracie Hager was found and a 9 mm handgun with a partially empty magazine inside the room Birl had escaped from as the apartment went up in flames.

Police said Wednesday that it isn’t yet clear if the Hagers were familiar with the suspect before their death.

“The preliminary investigation did not indicate the victims were at the residence to serve notice of eviction,” police said in a Facebook post.

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