Tags: St. Louis County News, Sunset Hills News
August 06, 2014 - A bicyclist claimed that Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer hit him with his car in an intentional hit-and-run last week, a charge the mayor denied and the St. Louis County Police Department is investigating.
Furrer and Fenton bicyclist Randy Murdick's accounts of what happened 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. At the time the Call went to press, no charges had been filed or tickets issued in the incident.
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.
Furrer's voice does not appear on any of the recordings, and no mention is made that he is the mayor. Murdick did not realize that the driver was the mayor until he went to the Police Department later that night, he said.
Murdick made the second call. When the dispatcher asked if he had any injuries, he replied, "I'm fine. The guy that ran me off the road's here."
Although no ambulance was called to the scene, Murdick told the Call he had blood running down his leg after the incident. He went to St. Anthony's Medical Center 12 hours later and found out he had torn his Achilles tendon.
Murdick's friend and fellow triathlete Chip Self, managing partner for triathlon store Swim Bike Run, which is the title sponsor of the Sunset Hill Triathlon, told the Call that endurance athletes like Murdick regularly bike and run through pain and can endure injuries that other people are not able to, including a torn Achilles tendon.
Before the 4 p.m. incident, Furrer attended the lunch opening of Gordo's Margaritas, the Mexican restaurant at the embattled Econo Lodge, which does not yet have its state liquor license.
"They're reporting that I was drunk and that I fled the scene," Furrer said. "I was absolutely not drunk, and I had not had any alcohol that day at all."
In a since-deleted Facebook picture, Crestwood Mayor Gregg Roby appears alongside Furrer at the opening of Gordo's.
Whether or not Furrer had anything to drink, Murdick's attorney Michelle Funkenbusch maintained that a field sobriety test would have been standard protocol at the scene of any such incident.