County Police to investigate incident involving Furrer, bicyclist

Sunset Hills police chief makes announcement Thursday afternoon

Mark Furrer

Mark Furrer

By Gloria Lloyd

At the request of the Sunset Hills Police Department, the St. Louis County Police Department is taking over the investigation of whether Mayor Mark Furrer knocked a bicyclist off the road with his car Tuesday.

Furrer and the bicyclist’s accounts of the Tuesday afternoon incident diverge widely, with each pointing to the other as an instigator who went on a profanity-laced tirade as they passed each other on Old Gravois Road.

Fenton resident Randy Murdick, an electrician and seasoned competitive cyclist, alleged that the mayor swerved into him with his red Mercedes convertible Tuesday on Old Gravois Road and knocked him off his bicycle, and that his account is completely supported by three eyewitnesses.

Furrer, however, said Murdick grabbed onto Furrer’s convertible of his own volition and fell. The fall tore Murdick’s Achilles tendon.

As of Thursday afternoon, no charges have been filed or tickets issued in the incident.

Sunset Hills Police Chief William LaGrand said in a press conference Thursday that while he believes the Police Department has so far conducted an impartial investigation into the incident, some people disagree. That is why he, Furrer and other city officials agreed that the investigation should be turned over to the county force.

“As chief of this department, I have the utmost confidence in the ability of the members of this department to conduct a fair and complete investigation of the incident between Mayor Mark Furrer and the bicyclist that happened on July 29,” LaGrand said.

“However, there has been a perception of a conflict of interest because Mayor Furrer is an elected official in the city of Sunset Hills,” he noted. “After collaborative consolation with other officials including the mayor himself, I’ve decided to request that St. Louis County Police Department take over the investigation. They have agreed, and the investigation is going on as we speak.”

The Call was interviewing Murdick Thursday when he received the news that the case was being handed over to the county.

A county detective who has investigated homicides in the past is conducting the investigation and has already spoken to one witness, said Michelle Funkenbusch, Murdick’s attorney, speaking on his behalf.

“They’re going to all the witnesses. They’ve already received a statement from one,” she said. “They are on it like lightning speed, so the timetable’s going to be very fast, I assume.”

In response to a Sunshine Law request submitted to the city of Sunset Hills, the Call received the 911 calls related to the incident on Thursday afternoon, and they appear to corroborate Murdick’s version of events. A man who said he witnessed the contact between the car and the bicycle said that the driver hit a bicyclist. A second call was made by Murdick himself.

Furrer’s voice does not appear on any of the recordings, and no mention is made that he is the mayor. Murdick said he did not realize that the person in the car was the mayor until he went to the Sunset Hills Police Department later that night.

The first 911 call opens with someone who is not the one making the call shouting in the background, “Pull over, pull over! You just hit that guy and took off!”

The caller, who identified himself as the son of the man shouting, told the emergency dispatcher, “I would like to report a hit and run over here on Old Gravois Road, right here by Delta Dental.”

“Leaving the scene, or a hit and run?” the dispatcher asked.

“The guy hit a bicyclist, drove off and then turned around and came back,” the caller responded.

As the call continued, the caller’s father can be heard yelling in the background, until the dispatcher asks the caller to tell his father not to say anything to the driver.

“Dad, stop yelling,” the caller said.

“If he has to continue that, he needs to get in the car and close his mouth,” the dispatcher said.

Murdick told the Call that when he first called 911, he was routed to a county dispatcher, who then sent him to the Sunset Hills Police Department.

In the second call to Sunset Hills 911, Murdick told the dispatcher his location, and the dispatcher asked him if he was the bicyclist who had been hit by a car.

When the dispatcher asked if Murdick had any injuries, he replied, “I’m fine. The guy that ran me off the road’s here.”

“We will be there shortly — do not have words with the driver,” the dispatcher replied, before the call ends.