Metro-East News

Ex-Anheuser-Busch CEO had loaded guns, 8 dogs and prescription pills in chopper, police say

Witness describes August Adolphus Busch IV helicopter landing

Cameron Wiggs, of Belleville, witnessed the helicopter flown by ex-Anheuser-Busch CEO August Adolphus Busch IV land Monday in Swansea.
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Cameron Wiggs, of Belleville, witnessed the helicopter flown by ex-Anheuser-Busch CEO August Adolphus Busch IV land Monday in Swansea.

August Adolphus Busch IV, the former CEO of Anheuser-Busch, had in his helicopter four loaded guns, each with a round in the chamber, eight dogs and prescription pills when police prevented him and his wife from taking off from a parking lot, according to police accounts and a search warrant application filed Tuesday.

The search warrant, signed by St. Clair County Associate Judge William Clay, commanded Busch to give blood, urine or other bodily fluid at Memorial Hospital in Belleville after his helicopter was found on a parking lot in Swansea.

This was after Busch took a portable breathalyzer at the scene, which came back negative for alcohol, according to the search warrant.

The helicopter initially landed about 12:48 p.m. Monday. But it was about eight hours later when a caller told police that an “intoxicated male was getting into the helicopter and attempting to fly away,” the search warrant stated.

Swansea Officer Cheryl Venorsky arrived as the helicopter was preparing to take off. Venorsky turned on her emergency lights, and the pilot, later identified as Busch IV, shut the chopper down, the court record stated.

Officer Jason Frank then got to the scene and found Busch leaning against Venorsky’s squad car.

“I observed August Adolphus Busch IV to be unable to keep a single train of thought,” Frank wrote in a sworn affidavit. “I noticed August Adolphus Busch IV appeared anxious.”

Frank then gave Busch a breathalyzer, which came back .000 for alcohol. Frank asked Busch to complete some field sobriety tests.

August Adolphus Busch IV, the former CEO of Anheuser-Busch, was held in the Swansea Police Department until Tuesday afternoon after a helicopter landed at Bronze Pointe Office Park overnight. Busch is a commercial pilot with certificates in airpla

Frank approached the helicopter and talked to Busch’s wife, Dawna M. Wood, who was seated inside.

“When asked, Dawna advised August Adolphus Busch IV has anxiety issues and is off of his medication due to recent fertility treatment. I made contact with August Adolphus Busch IV, and I advised August Adolphus Busch IV, and he was free to go,” Frank wrote. “Instead of departing, August Adolphus Busch IV continued to ramble about things that were unrelated. At that point, due to his continued ramblings, I became suspicious, and I reinitiated my investigation.”

Frank wrote Busch continually changed subjects during their conversation.

“Taking the totality of circumstances into consideration, I believed (Busch) could be under the influence of a controlled substance. I advised (Busch) he was no longer allowed to get into his helicopter and fly away,” Frank wrote.

It was then that Busch told Frank he had a concealed carry permit and had a Rohrbaugh R9 9mm, a handgun, in his front pants pocket. Busch asked if Frank wanted him to take the gun out. Frank said yes.

“As I removed the Rohrbaugh R9, (Busch) advised the Rohrbaugh R9 was ‘hot,’” Frank wrote.

Frank put the gun inside the helicopter, according to the affidavit, and called Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson.

Inside the helicopter, police found four bottles containing prescriptions, according to the search warrant. Two were prescribed for Busch: Alprazolam, which is also marketed under the brand Xanax and is a minor tranquilizer, and Clonazepam, another tranquilizer that is used to treat panic attacks.

The other two prescription drugs were prescribed for his wife, the document showed.

A helicopter landed at Bronze Pointe Office Park overnight. The Bell helicopter is listed to Jagger 4 LLC, a Missouri corporation. The helicopter is registered to 18130 Edison Ave. in Chesterfield, Missouri at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

At some point, Busch told the officers that he was having an anxiety attack and started jumping around and running sprints, saying he was trying to get oxygen to cope with the anxiety attack.

Once Busch calmed, he allowed Frank to pat search him, then Frank asked if he could search the helicopter. Frank wrote that he found a pepper spray gun, a Ruger .22 revolver, a Ruger .357 Magnum revolver and a Glock .357 Magnum. All the guns were loaded.

Busch was given a second set of field sobriety tests.

Busch was then arrested and taken to the Swansea Police Department.

Swansea police requested the help of a drug recognition expert with the Fairview Heights Police Department. The officer said he would need some time to report his findings.

Frank stated that he needed to retain the evidence collected in the investigation and possible prosecution of Busch for reckless conduct, unlawful use of a weapon and intoxicated person in or about an aircraft. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said Tuesday that authorities are awaiting toxicology results before making a decision on whether to file charges.

No injuries were reported.

I observed August Adolphus Busch IV to be unable to keep a single train of thought.

Swansea Police Officer Jason Frank

Busch’s wife was allowed to leave, taking the eight dogs with her, Johnson said.

Busch, 53, is a commercial pilot with certificates in airplanes, single and multiengine planes, instrument airplanes and rotocraft helicopters.

Cameron Wiggs, a data coordinator at OneSource in Bronze Pointe, said he and co-workers watched the helicopter land in the office complex parking lot off Illinois 159 on Monday afternoon.

The woman passenger got out and walked into a nearby office building, Wiggs said. Then, a black sport utility vehicle pulled up, and the driver and pilot began to unload dogs from the chopper.

“There must have been seven or eight of them. All black and white. Shih tzus, maybe,” Wiggs said.

Police came an hour or two after the helicopter landed, talked to the pilot and driver, then left, Wiggs said.

Johnson issued a news release Tuesday afternoon, stating police received a call that a helicopter was landing for an unknown reason at 1 Bronze Point in Swansea at 12:48 p.m. Monday. When police arrived, they found the helicopter on the ground, too close to obstacles and buildings, Johnson said.

The Federal Aviation Administration was contacted by Johnson and was advised that they would investigate the landing. The FAA also requested pictures and information.

“We have been in close communications and coordination with the FAA and the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office,” Johnson stated in the release. “This is not your normal case that a street police officer handles. The safety and security of the community, the pilot and passenger were of the utmost concern.”

Busch was released from custody before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, pending completion of the investigation, according to Johnson.

“Family members are contacting another pilot to remove the helicopter,” he stated.

A woman in a black Audi RS7 with Missouri plates arrived about 10:30 a.m. She left after spotting reporters, but returned and picked Busch up about 12:45 p.m., when Busch emerged from the police department.

Busch could not be reached for comment.

The Bell helicopter is listed to Jagger 4 LLC, a Missouri corporation. The helicopter is registered to 18130 Edison Ave. in Chesterfield, Mo., at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

Tim Vizer

August Busch IV is the great-great-grandson of Adolphus Busch, the founder of Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. He was the last Busch family member to control the huge company before it was purchased by InBev, the Belgium-based brewing giant, in a hostile takeover in 2008.

In 2010, Adrienne Nicole Martin, 27, Busch’s girlfriend, was found dead at his home in Huntleigh, Mo., at a time when Busch was in the house. A prosecutor in St. Louis County stated that after high levels of oxycodone and cocaine were found in her system at autopsy, her death was ruled an accidental overdose, according to news reports.

In 2012, a lawsuit in her death brought by Martin’s former husband was settled for $1.75 million. No charges were filed in connection with Martin’s death.

In 1983, Busch was involved in a car crash while attending the University of Arizona that resulted in the death of a 21-year-old woman passenger. According to news accounts, Busch left the scene and was later found by police at his townhouse with a sawed off shotgun and in a dazed state. Busch, who suffered a skull fracture, was not charged.

In January, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Busch was involved in an altercation at a bank in Key West, Fla., when a man became angry with the way Busch had parked his car, alleging it blocked access to an ATM. When the man confronted him, Busch allegedly pulled a licensed handgun but kept it pointed at the ground. Busch was not charged.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk