Bristol, Va. police recover bike stolen from “famous” Shamas

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Bristol Virginia Police officers have recovered the stolen bike belonging to one of the twin cities’ most “famous” residents.

Shamas Dougherty has been cycling around the State Street area, and along Volunteer Parkway, for decades. But on March 20, Dougherty’s routine was disrupted by a theft incident.

Dougherty, who has developmental disabilities that prevent him from driving a car, parked his bike on the corner of State Street and Piedmont Avenue on the Virginia side of the city.

When he returned from a stop at Stateline Bar and Grille his bike was gone.

Bristol Virginia K-9 handler and officer Dustin Widener was working an afternoon on patrol that day and quickly got to work recovering the stolen bike.

“I had known Shamas growing up in Bristol,” Officer Widener told News Channel 11. “I came in that night and set it as a priority off to the side to try and locate his bike, because I know what it means to him.”

Though Widener didn’t make any progress that night, he was able to eliminate popular locations for stashing a bike.

It’s not just local police that pitched in to support Dougherty.

Hal Boyd, co-owner of Boyd’s Bicycle shop, was one of the first to learn that Dougherty’s bike had been stolen after Dougherty walked across State Street to the shop and got a ride home from one of Boyd’s customers the day he found his bike missing.

Boyd and his customers drove around town that night in search of the gray, step-through bike.

Widener hit the streets the following evening prepared for some old-fashioned detective work.

“While on patrol downtown, [I] came into contact with a large group of individuals that are homeless in the area that use bikes mainly for their thoroughfare throughout the city; [I] approached them and actually offered them a little bit of a reward to try and locate his bike,” Widener recounted.

Within 12 hours, a tip surfaced; and Boyd said he had a theory as to who it was: the same customer who had driven Shamus home on March 20.

“When he came back to town, he rode around to see,” Boyd told News Channel 11. “And lo and behold he spotted it.”

Though it was Widener’s night off, he secured permission to come in and finish the investigation.

Widener met his “informant” at the public library and found him polishing the recovered bicycle.

“Unfortunately, the basket that he had on the front of the bike was no longer attached, but other than that, the bike was in perfect working order,” Widener said.

The whereabouts of the bicycle during the time between its disappearance on March 20 and its recovery on March 22 are uncertain, though Widener said it likely changed hands several times.

Widener brought the bike back to Dougherty that night. Despite rainy weather, he said Dougherty was ready to burst out the door in his socks.

“It was like a kid on Christmas,” Widener said.

Boyd said Dougherty stopped by the shop on Monday to get his light and basket replaced.

“He was tickled,” Boyd said.

Though many cases like this would never be resolved, Widener said the effort was well worth it to honor a Bristol legend.

“I mean, ultimately, Shamas is famous in this area,” Widener said. “He’s our local hometown celebrity. And if anybody knows him, they assimilate (sic.) two things with his routine and the bicycle, and without that, he’s stuck at home.”

“Ultimately, that’s his freedom,” Widener said.

News Channel 11 reached out to Dougherty’s primary caretaker, his sister, on Tuesday to request an interview. He was out on his bike all afternoon.