Yesterday, in a post on Facebook that spread rapidly on social media and then in subsequent interviews, a local cyclist accused Sunset Hills mayor Mark Furrer of intentionally running him off the road with his car after screaming, "Get off my fucking roads!"
The cyclist, Randy Murdick of Fenton, accused Furrer of deliberately swerving into him with his red Mercedes convertible, causing Murdick to wreck. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Furrer denied the charges and accused Murdick of grabbing on to his car before falling.
"Honestly, everything he's saying is just ridiculous," says Murdick. "He's just lying to cover it up. Nobody in their right mind on a 17-pound bike is going to grab a hold of a 3,000-pound car."
Here is Murdick's original post in its entirety:
"He hit me so hard I almost fell into the convertible," Murdick tells Daily RFT.
Sunset Hills police chief William LaGrand confirms that an incident occurred around 4 p.m. on Tuesday between the mayor and a cyclist, but would not comment on specifics.
"The investigation is still under way. It probably will not be completed until Friday and then we need to refer it to the city prosecutor for review," he says. "I'm not going to speculate about something I'm not sure I'm correct about...we want to be accurate."
The account immediately incensed fellow cyclists and others on social media, who demanded an explanation from Furrer on the mayor's Facebook page. The post that attracted the most comments -- which included a photo of Furrer at a restaurant called Gordo's Margaritas just prior to the incident -- was deleted, but here's a screengrab. The entire page now appears to be missing:
Furrer did not return calls to his cell phone or emails, but here's the version of events he gave to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
He said he was driving when the cyclist whipped around a corner and ran a stop sign. He said he told the cyclist he needed to obey traffic signs, and the cyclist started yelling at him, using profanities.
Furrer said Murdick grabbed onto his car during the incident. He said he didn't accelerate or swerve, but saw Murdick then tumble from his bike. Furrer said he kept going, but pulled into a driveway to turn around and go back to check on Murdick.
Furrer told the P-D reporter that he was "ready to vomit" over the accusations.
Both men seem to agree that words -- and expletives -- were exchanged, but that's about it. Murdick says he did stop at the stop sign Furrer is referring to before this occurred, but that he actually unclipped from his pedals to come to a complete stop and did not see any vehicles around him. And if he did blow through a stop sign, that doesn't exactly give drivers a free pass to run him off the road.
"I think people hate cyclists that run stop signs, and he's trying to get the press to blame the victim," says Michelle Funkenbusch, Murdick's attorney.
Murdick also says there were two witnesses -- a man in a vehicle directly behind the mayor and a second in a truck coming the opposite way who chased after the Mercedes after Murdick fell. According to Murdick, police interviewed both of these witnesses. Funkenbusch was unsure if the witnesses would be willing to speak to Daily RFT, but she did post this to the Facebook group BikelifeSTL:
I just did a 5 minute interview with one of the witnesses. He corroborates EVERYTHING Randy Murdick said. Also, the witnesses 28 year old son was also in the truck so there are THREE witnesses. In sum, the driver of the truck said he saw the Mayor turn the wheel to the right into the cyclist. He absolutely believes it was intentional and deliberate. He chased the mayor down the road and yelled at him and blinked his lights to get him to pull over. He could not believe the mayor got away without a ticket. At no time did he ever see Randy grab the car. His hands were on the bike. The Mayor's story is a total lie.
Furrer was not arrested, a fact Funkenbusch found incredible after Murdick told her what happened. She says neither of them knew that the driver in the Mercedes was Furrer until they went back to the police station to demand further action be taken.
"The Sunset Hills police did not tell Randy that it was their boss," she says.
Murdick says he went to the hospital after the incident and has a torn Achilles tendon and a bruised tailbone. He is unable to return to work as an electrician as a result. He also says his $12,000 bike is badly damaged.
Funkenbusch says she and her client are hoping for a few outcomes -- first that Furrer resign.
"We hope that the case gets sent to St. Louis County and the St. Louis County prosecutor's office files charges for careless and imprudent driving, leaving the scene of the accident and assault," she says. "We want the city of Sunset Hills to recognize that they need to show that they are a bicycle-friendly community. This is a stain on a great city."
Meanwhile, a "Sunset Hills Cyclist Awareness Ride: Large Group Ride" is planned for Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Find more information here.
This is obviously a developing situation, and we'll update as we learn more.
Email the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.