Shannon Biggers watched as Trooper James M. Bava skidded off the side of Highway FF into the line of trees.
“A state trooper just wrecked,” Biggers told the emergency dispatcher. “His car is on fire.”
He and others were installing a heating and cooling system in a construction home on the two-lane stretch of road in Audrain County when a motorcycle came speeding past them. Biggers could hear the motorcycle accelerating as it crossed over the hill to the west, increasing what must have been an already high speed. About 30 to 45 seconds later, he said, a Missouri State Highway Patrol car drove in the same direction.
As it hit the bottom of the hill, it bottomed out, Biggers said, and careened into the woods off the side of the road.
“Is he out the vehicle?” the dispatcher asked.
“I don’t know,” Biggers replied. “All I heard was screaming. I can’t tell if he’s out or not.”
A St. Charles County jury heard from Biggers at the end of the first day of testimony in the trial against Serghei Comerzan, the man accused of driving that motorcycle on August 28, 2015. Bava died in a fire that engulfed the cruiser, and Audrain County prosecutors charged Comerzan with resisting arrest and second-degree murder.
The emotional testimony and replaying of his 911 call came after several other eyewitnesses testified on Monday. The stories of those who lived, worked or drove on Highway FF described a similar scene: Someone would notice the motorcycle, either by its rapid approach to their vehicle or the sound of its engine taking the forward-leaning bike up in speed. Witnesses also described seeing Bava in pursuit of the vehicle, but whether or not the cruiser had its lights on varies based on where witnesses were on Highway FF that day.
Prosecutors Scott Fox and Stephanie Watson claim Comerzan saw Bava on Highway FF and continued to speed down the highway to avoid him. Calvin McGrew, who was pulled over by Bava minutes earlier, said Comerzan passed him on the highway while looking over his shoulder a couple times.
Defense attorney Charles James focused on the distance between Comerzan and Bava that day. Like Biggers, several people testified there was a gap of several seconds, with many estimating a 30-second gap. Comerzan would not have known Bava was trying to pull him over due to the distance, James said, and the poor sightlines on the road caused by its several hills. Craig Reichert, a state highway patrolman who lives on Highway FF, said he heard the motorcycle pick up speed on the highway and then saw Bava in pursuit several seconds later. The cruiser did not have its lights on, Reichert said, but neighbors further west on the road said they did see the lights and sirens of Bava’s car.
Sgt. Matt Koch, an investigator with the patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control, said the switch that controls Bava’s lights was in the on position at the time of the crash.
The trial will resume Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.