Police report offers insight into Furrer investigation

Jury trial for Sunset Hills mayor slated Dec. 14 in St. Louis County Circuit Court

Mark Furrer

Mark Furrer

By Gloria Lloyd

A police report outlining the July 29 incident with a bicyclist and Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer provides the best look yet into how county officials conducted their investigation, although it does not explicitly state why prosecutors decided to charge the mayor with two felonies.

The report includes witness accounts from three Sunset Hills residents who saw the events and appear to back up key details of Fenton cyclist Randy Murdick’s account that the mayor deliberately swerved his car into Murdick’s $12,000 bicycle, knocking him over and tearing his Achilles tendon.

“I did not hit the bicycle guy,” the mayor told the Call the day after the incident.

In the mayor’s account of events, Murdick grabbed onto Furrer’s 1991 red Mercedes Benz convertible and fell when they exchanged words after Furrer told the cyclist he should not have run a stop sign.

Murdick denies that and said he stopped at the stop sign on Kennerly Road and even unclamped his shoes from his pedals to stop.

In October, prosecutors charged Furrer with felony second-degree assault and felony property damage over $500, and he was indicted on the same charges by a grand jury Dec. 10. Furrer has a jury trial set for Dec. 14 in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

The police report identifies three eyewitnesses, but the Call is not identifying the witnesses by name, only by the order in which they appear in the report.

Witness 2 told police he was driving on Old Gravois Road with his adult son, Witness 3, in the passenger seat, when he saw a red convertible driving “extremely close” to a bicycle in the opposite lane and saw the convertible driver “holler” something at the bicyclist, who yelled back.

“The guy in the Mercedes-Benz hollered back at the cyclist, and then turned right; or made a right jerk with the car,” Witness 2 said in a recorded statement for county police. “I saw the steering wheel turn right because his hands were on it and I saw his hand go up. So he turned right into him. The car kind of dropped down off the road a little bit and came back on and that’s when he accelerated away.”

When police interviewed Witness 3, he said that he missed the actual moment of impact in front of Delta Dental: He saw the driver say something to the cyclist, but turned away for a moment before his father yelled that the car hit the bicycle.

Telling his son he thought the driver was trying to leave the scene, Witness 2 made a U-turn to give chase and told his son to call 911. The voices of the father and the son can be heard on a 911 recording from the scene in which the son calls the incident a “hit-and-run” and the father can be heard yelling at Furrer that he just hit the bicyclist and needed to return to the scene.

Witness 1 told police he was following Furrer when he saw the convertible slow down alongside the bicycle, then make “an abrupt maneuver, to and fro, in and out.”

The hit sent Murdick flying over the handlebars onto his back, but the witness was unable to say with 100 percent certainty whether the hit had been deliberate. He stopped in the road to help Murdick, then chased after Furrer’s car to get a license plate number.

The witnesses caught up with Furrer when the mayor pulled into the entrance to Friendship Village and Pointe Drive — the street that leads to Furrer’s neighborhood — 0.08 of a mile away.

After Furrer drove back to the scene, Witness 2 tried to keep Furrer away from the cyclist and told the mayor he should have stopped after he hit someone, but the witness told police that Furrer replied, “I didn’t hit anybody.”

The witness said he replied, “I sat right across the street; I watched you do it.”

The witness said Furrer replied, “You were so close to me you pushed me into him.”

Sunset Hills Police Chief William LaGrand called the St. Louis County Police Department July 31 to turn the investigation over to the outside agency. After that, a team of five county detectives immediately began their own investigation into the events, interviewing the Sunset Hills officers who responded to the scene, interviewing and walking through the scene with Murdick, examining Furrer’s convertible and attempting to interview Furrer.

The same day as the bicyclist incident, Furrer emailed LaGrand asking the chief to work night shifts, a request LaGrand interpreted as permanent but Furrer said was just a misunderstanding. The city has declined to provide the email to the Call since it involves a personnel issue, so it is unclear whether the mayor sent the email before or after the 4 p.m. incident.

The five county detectives who took over the case interviewed the Sunset Hills officers who responded to the scene, Lt. Greg Zveitel, Lt. Mike Swofford, Corp. Jeff Senior and Sgt. Steven Lucas.

Senior told detectives that he knows Witness 2 well and vouched for him as reliable, while 16-year department veteran Lucas said he has also known Witness 2 for many years and “knew (him) to be a truthful individual.”

County detectives noted in the investigative report that the witness statements and the accounts Murdick gave to them and to Sunset Hills police that were captured on dash-cam audio, as well as statements made to the media, were consistent. They did not say whether Furrer’s statements were consistent.

On Aug. 1, detectives walked through the scene of the incident with Murdick and visited his house to photograph physical evidence, including the bike.

The next day, detectives visited Furrer at his farm in Millstadt, Ill., and read him his Miranda rights, which inform suspects that they have the “right to remain silent” and that anything they say can be used against them.

With his attorney Chuck Billings present, Furrer declined to make a statement to police, who examined the convertible for evidence.

After the initial investigation, county detectives delayed Furrer’s case after they focused their attention on investigating the killing of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson Aug. 9 and the weeks of civil unrest that followed.

The lead detective in both cases, Detective Matthew Wilson, recommended the charges to county Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch in September, and after issuing subpoenas for additional media video footage, McCulloch filed the charges against Furrer Oct. 1.