Crime & Courts

Bridge-jumping robbery suspect's family well-known

Russell Munn
Russell Munn

An accused bank robber who dove off a bridge after a high-speed chase last week is from a well-regarded Columbia family whose members include a successful lobbyist and nationally known actress Allison Munn.

But last week's incident isn't the first run-in with the law for 28-year-old Russell Clark Munn Jr. He has a string of drug and alcohol-related charges dating to 2001, police records show. His state driving record shows he has also had 17 violations in the past decade.

Munn's father, Columbia legislative lobbyist Russell Munn Sr., confirmed that the suspect was his son and the brother of Allison Munn. But the ongoing police investigation prevented him from commenting, Munn Sr. said.

"He's in custody, so they will not discuss anything with me," the elder Munn said Tuesday. He was unavailable later in the week.

Brick Lewis, a spokesman for the Columbia Police Department, said Munn Jr. remained in a hospital Thursday from injuries he sustained in the fall, a full week after the apparent suicide attempt at the Interstate 77 bridge over the Congaree River.

Munn Jr., who has lived in both Columbia and Charleston during the past decade, has been arrested for trafficking marijuana, possession of hypodermic needles and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.

He spent six months in state prisons in 2007 and 2008 after his conviction on marijuana-trafficking charges in Charleston, state Department of Corrections spokesman Josh Gelinas said.

When Munn made his dive from the Alex Sanders Bridge last week, he was also facing a charge of felony driving under the influence from a 2009 wreck in Orangeburg County, according to SLED records.

In that case, Munn Jr. was driving a car that collided with the back of an automobile Oct. 30 on I-26, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Sid Gaulden said.

The crash, which occurred about 24 miles southeast of Columbia, overturned a car driven by a 48-year-old Cope woman, Gaulden said. An accident report shows she sustained injuries. The case has not come to trial, Gaulden said.

Now, Munn Jr. faces charges of bank robbery, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime.

Police say a man held up a BB&T bank on Garners Ferry Road the morning of March 25. After the money was stolen, police chased Munn Jr. along Interstate 77 from Columbia, when his car was stopped. Munn then climbed atop a guardrail, more than 50 feet above the river.

That caused police to block traffic on the interstate for more than an hour as they negotiated with Munn Jr. to come down. Some motorists stuck in traffic saw Munn dive from the bridge about 11:20 a.m.

He missed the Congaree River, instead landing in thicket of brambles and the muddy bank that police say may have saved his life.

The suspect is the younger brother of Allison Munn, a nationally known actress who has appeared on television shows such as "Law and Order," "Boston Public" and "JAG." She also had a recurring role as Caroline in "That 70s Show," and a starring role as Tina Haven in "What I Like About You."

She grew up in Columbia and attended A.C. Flora High School. After establishing herself as an actress, Allison Munn became active in "Rock the Vote," an effort to get young people to register to vote, according to IMDB, a database of celebrities. An attempt to locate Allison Munn for comment was unsuccessful.

Russell Munn Sr. is a USC graduate who is widely known at the State House for his work over the years as a lobbyist.

The senior Munn spent seven years as lead lobbyist for the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, South Carolina's most influential business association. He also worked with the S.C. Medical Association and former Gov. Carroll Campbell. Today, Munn Sr. is involved in helping the Special Olympics.