Sunset Hills mayor charged with two felonies in bicycle incident

Furrer told the Call, ‘I did not hit the bicycle guy’

Mark Furrer

Mark Furrer

By Gloria Lloyd


On the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer has been charged with two felonies for the July 29 incident in which a Fenton bicyclist alleges that Furrer intentionally ran him off the road in a hit-and-run.

Furrer was charged Wednesday with one count of second-degree assault, a class C felony, and one count of first-degree property damage, a class D felony.

Furrer took office in April in a write-in victory against former Mayor Bill Nolan. Sunset Hills City Attorney Robert E. Jones told the Call that the city does not have any ordinances prohibiting a felon from holding office, but Missouri state statute prohibits convicted felons from holding office.

Furrer denies hitting Fenton cyclist Randy Murdick, who told the Call Wednesday he is happy with the charges and glad the two-month wait to see what would happen in his case is over.

“I’m just happy now that everything is moving forward, and it seems like (the county has) done the right thing up to this point,” he said.

Furrer did not immediately return a request for comment from the Call Wednesday afternoon. Although he initially spoke freely about the day of the incident, he later told the Call that on the advice of his then-attorney Chuck Billings, he would no longer talk about the incident.

Furrer’s new attorney Thomas Magee wrote in a statement, “We will vigorously defend this case, we will take it to trial, and we expect to win. While Mark would like to give a statement, we have advised him to wait until the trial.”

Although the story initially made national news and at that time, some of the people angry with Furrer accused him of attempted murder, Murdick’s attorney and fellow cyclist Michelle Funkenbusch said the charges issued Wednesday were the right ones and exactly the ones she wanted.

The charges “hit the nail on the head in terms of what occurred here” and are themselves a victory, regardless of what direction the case takes, Funkenbusch told the Call.

“To me, what happens after this is up to the judge, is up to the attorneys who represent him, and whether he gets jail time will depend on whether he has any priors,” she said. “But it sends the message that they’re not going to tolerate this kind of assault.”

Pointing to previous altercations with construction workers and an elderly Friendship Village resident that were first reported by the Call, Funkenbusch said Furrer had to be stopped at some point.

“This is a classic case of road rage from someone who has a history of road rage,” she said. “And this time it’s a vulnerable user that is a cyclist, and previously with him it’s been construction workers on the road, our elderly who are driving who we need to be patient with. Who would it be next? Would it be a child that’s walking home from school or riding their bike who he wants to run off the road? It’s got to stop, and hopefully this will calm him down.”

A strong message like Furrer’s two felony charges has never been sent in the St. Louis region to anyone who has hit or attacked a cyclist, since such drivers are usually charged with misdemeanors even when the assault justifies felony charges, Funkenbusch noted.

“It was a felony assault. We were worried it was going to be (charged as) a misdemeanor peace disturbance or something that really didn’t justify the intentional criminal nature of what happened,” she added.

The investigating officer, Det. Matthew Wilson of the Crimes Against Persons Unit, wrote in the complaint recommending the charges, “Defendant (Furrer) engages a bicyclist in a verbal altercation then swerves his car into him knocking him from his bike and damaging the bike. The victim suffered a contusion on the buttock and a strain of the knee and leg.”

Wilson is also the lead detective investigating the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, which pushed the Furrer case on the backburner for the month of August as county police focused on the civil unrest on the streets in north county.

As first reported by the Call in September, the incident was not the first time police responded to an incident involving Furrer. The future mayor had an encounter with an elderly Friendship Village resident in 2011, where each accused the other of third-degree assault after a dispute that began in their cars.

City Attorney Robert E. Jones, who is also the prosecuting attorney for Sunset Hills, declined to press charges in that episode due to the two men’s conflicting accounts over what happened.

Like that earlier incident, Furrer and Murdick’s accounts of what happened July 29 diverge widely.

“The mayor of Sunset Hills told me to get off his roads, then ran me over,” Murdick, an electrician and seasoned competitive cyclist, wrote on Facebook the night of the July 29 incident, in a post that went viral among bicycling circles nationwide.

Furrer countered that Murdick was the instigator and fell after he grabbed onto the mayor’s convertible of his own volition, after Furrer drove next to him and told him not to run a stop sign. The fall tore Murdick’s Achilles tendon.

Amid questions over whether the Sunset Hills Police Department could conduct an unbiased investigation, Police Chief William LaGrand asked the county to take over the investigation July 31.

The incident happened on Old Gravois Road in front of Delta Dental — near Furrer’s home and close to the site of the since-abandoned QuikTrip project that spurred Furrer, 60, to his surprising write-in victory last spring over former Mayor Bill Nolan.

Murdick told the Call his version of events is fully supported by three eyewitnesses. The witnesses’ names are not yet public due to the ongoing investigation.

Murdick, 47, the defending state mountain-biking champion, was 35 miles into a training ride when a man in a red Mercedes convertible, whom Murdick alleged was Furrer, pulled alongside him and started yelling.

“He just kept saying get off my f—ing road, get off my f—ing road,” Murdick told the Call. “Well, when I finally had enough of him, I told him to go f— himself, and with that he just snapped the car over, and it hit me in the leg. It hit me so hard I almost fell into the convertible and needless to say it freaked me out …

“I kind of hooked the convertible and the bike went shooting out. As the bike is shooting out, he just nails (the gas pedal), and it flips me off the back of the car.”

The driver accelerated and drove off, and two men in a white truck chased down the mayor and made him return to the scene, Murdick said. A third witness who had stopped to help Murdick went to chase Furrer but could not catch up to the mayor, he added.

Furrer told the Call that the incident went much differently, however.

“I did not hit the bicycle guy,” he said. “I was coming through the three-way intersection and I stopped. This guy comes flying off the T (on a bicycle) and turns right in front of me on Gravois without stopping. I drove by him and said, ‘Hey man, you’re supposed to stop at the stop signs.’ And then he starts ‘MF’-ing me and ‘F you’ and all this stuff.

“He was hanging onto my door, riding along next to me, and then all of a sudden he let go — or I assume he let go — and I saw him tumble off into the grass,” Furrer continued. “There was no evidence on my car that there was any contact. There’s no scratch, there’s nothing to indicate I hit him with the car. He’s saying I swerved into him.”

When Furrer saw Murdick fall down, he said there was no shoulder on Gravois where he could pull over to check on the bicyclist, so he made a U-turn at the next intersection and headed back to the scene, then was cut off by another driver, who yelled that Furrer had fled the scene.

“This guy’s alleging that he chased me down,” Furrer said. “That didn’t really happen.”

The Call obtained the recordings of the two 911 calls from the incident through a Sunshine Law request.

The first 911 call opened with someone who is not the caller 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.