Toy Run fight dampens Christmas spirit

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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A fight between two motorcycle clubs at the Wise County Toy Run Sunday in Decatur threatened to overshadow the good work of the group.

Lt. Art Ferguson with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office said the Lost Riders and the Cossacks, which are known rivals, got into a fight about 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot on Thompson Street near McCarroll Middle School. More than 1,000 bikers were gathered in the lot for registration and lineup before the 15th annual run started at 12:30 p.m.

Pile O Toys

PILE-O-TOYS – Despite a slightly lower attendance than last year, organizer Big Ed Beckley said more gifts were collected at this year’s Wise County Toy Run. The items will be distributed to local children and families that have applied for help. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Toy Run is a charitable event that collects and distributes toys to children in Wise County. Ferguson said the sheriff’s office has traditionally handled logistics and traffic control for the ride, but this is the first year there’s been a problem.

“There’s been rumors of problems before,” he said, “but never a fight.”

Ferguson said the Lost Riders started walking through the crowd in threes and somehow encroached on the Cossacks’ area. The Lost Riders president was jumped, and the fight went to the ground. Ferguson said the main Cossack rider that was involved was pulled off by his buddies and shuffled away, hidden in the crowd.

Other Cossack members continued to kick and stomp the Lost Riders president until law enforcement broke it up. Ferguson said the man had abrasions all over his body, but for the most part, his injuries appeared superficial. The Lost Riders were outnumbered in the crowd about five to one, according to Ferguson.

He said those involved declined to press charges, and no arrest was made because it was impossible to know who exactly started the altercation.

“We’re going to take steps next year to make sure we keep those groups away from each other,” he said. “We’re already working on a plan to prevent this from happening again.”

Big Ed Beckley of Bridgeport said he and other event organizers didn’t know anything about it.

“I saw one sheriff’s officer and one Decatur cop go down there, and the next thing I knew they were back, said everything was OK,” he said.

According to Beckley, they were more concerned about the rider that crashed just as the group was leaving Decatur.

“Thank God he was wearing a helmet,” he said. “It put a big ol’ gash in his helmet.”

Beckley said the riders were probably driving slowly when the crash occurred, and as far as he knows, the rider suffered only a bruised shoulder.

Beckley said between 1,500 and 1,800 riders participated in this year’s event – down slightly from last year. The ride left the Thompson Street lot just before 12:30 p.m., passed through the Decatur Square and traveled down Trinity Street to U.S. 380. Once on 380, the group drove to Bridgeport and congregated in Harwood Park where they dropped off their toy donations.

“When the first riders appeared in the Bridgeport park, the last riders were just pulling out of the parking lot in Decatur,” Beckley said. Although the number of riders was down, donations increased from last year, he noted.

“It doesn’t seem like we had as many riders, but we were in the gift mode, so to speak,” he said. “We have more applications from families needing help than we ever have. It’s definitely going to be needed.”

The Show Must Go On

THE SHOW MUST GO ON – A fight between motorcycle clubs during registration didn’t halt the Wise County Toy Run Sunday afternoon. Organizer Big Ed Beckley said between 1,500 and 1,800 riders participated, and as the first riders were entering Harwood Park in Bridgeport, the last riders were just leaving Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Beckley said families apply for help from the group through their children’s elementary schools. In addition to distributing toys, the group uses monetary donations to buy the kids coats and help with other financial needs.

“We’ve even had to help pay rent, the gas bill and electric bill to make sure these kids have not only a Christmas, but a home,” he said.

The Toy Run also gives a $1,000 scholarship annually to every Wise County high school. Beckley estimated that 90 percent of the riders come from outside Wise County.

Bridgeport Assistant Police Chief Steve Stanford said at least some members of both the Lost Riders and Cossacks made it to Harwood Park, but there were no further problems.

“We received information that there was a fight between the two motorcycle gangs [in Decatur] so we called in extra officers,” he said. “We had already called in some extra help for the event, but we called in additional help.”

Sheriff David Walker said his department will reconfigure the law enforcement presence next year.

“At some point, somewhere along the line, someone has lost sight of why the Toy Run was originally organized,” he said. “The fight was ridiculous, and this could potentially cause next year not be as successful because folks don’t want to be involved with that.”

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