Trail assault investigation continues

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Grayson takes over investigation of beating on Virginia Creeper Trail.


© 2011, Bristol Herald Courier
Reprinted With Permission

WHITETOP — The investigation into an apparent assault in a parking lot near the Virginia Creeper Trail has been handed over to the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office after authorities determined the incident happened in that county’s limits.
Alicia Armistead of Norton said her husband, Shannon, was attacked in a parking lot in Whitetop after getting a ride to his truck from two men the couple believed to be employees of a bike shuttle service in Damascus. She said he was hit with a beer bottle, which was later found in the bed of his pickup truck.
Shannon Armistead was taken to the hospital that evening and released early the next morning with multiple contusions, Alicia Armistead said.
The incident occurred Sept. 3 and the report was initially taken by the Damascus Police Department, which turned the case over to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The Grayson Sheriff’s Office interviewed the Armisteads last week and is using taped interviews with some persons of interest, conducted by Washington County, said Grayson Chief Deputy Mike Hash.
No arrests have been made.
“We’re continuing to work on it,” Hash said. “We assured the victims we’d do as much as we could, and let them know prior to taking any action.”
Alicia Armistead said her husband is recovering. “We are hoping to have this all behind us soon so we can get back to our normal life enjoying each other and our boys,” she said.


WHITETOP — Authorities are still investigating an apparent beating near the Virginia Creeper Trail, an incident one woman said will likely prevent her family from returning to the trail again.
Alicia Armistead, of Norton, said her husband, Shannon, was beaten in the head with a beer bottle, dragged by the front of his shirt and had his glasses knocked off before he was able to get away from his assailants the night of Sept. 3 in a parking lot near the Virginia Creeper Trail in Whitetop.
Alicia Armistead said she, Shannon and their children, ages 5 and 12, had gone bike-riding down the trail that afternoon. Instead of paying for a shuttle to take them to the top of the mountain, the family left their van parked in Damascus and drove their pickup truck to the top. The plan was to ride down the trail and then drive the van back to get the truck.
That didn’t exactly work out, Armistead said.
They had left the van key in the truck, she said, and the key they had hidden outside the van opened the van’s doors but didn’t have the chip in it needed to start the van. So, she walked downtown to see if she could hitch a ride from a shuttle company back to the top.
The first store she came to was closed, and the second shop owner was just packing up, she said, but offered that two of his employees could give her a ride to the top if she gave them gas money.
“When I got in the car I just felt uncomfortable,” she said. “So I told them I needed to go back to the park and tell my family I had a ride.”
Once there, she conferred with her husband, and they decided he would go with them.
“It felt OK because they didn’t seem bad,” Armistead said of the two men who offered the ride.
The next time she saw Shannon was about an hour and a half later.
“When he pulled into the park I saw blood and I saw his glasses were off,” she said. “It was just awful.”
Armistead said her husband told her the group had stopped at a gas station, and he gave the men $20 for gas. But, he told her, they returned with beer instead.
Then the men took Shannon Armistead up to the parking lot, but went a different way, using back roads, which they reportedly told Shannon was because their muffler was too loud and they were avoiding police.
Once at the top, Shannon got out of the car and unlocked his truck. He got in the truck and noticed the tailgate was down, Alicia Armistead said. So, he got back out.
As he did, “somebody hit him with a glass beer bottle,” she said. “His glasses flew off and they were in the truck with the beer bottle. He kinda slumped against the truck, and someone pulled his shirt. He managed to sling them off.”
Then he drove back to his family, who couldn’t call him, Armistead said, because their cell phones did not get service in Damascus.
She said the couple called police, and after giving a statement, Shannon was taken to Johnston Memorial Hospital, where it was found he had an abrasion to his face. He was released early Sunday morning, Armistead said.
The Grayson County Virginia Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident, after an initial investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Major Jack Davidson of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said the incident was reported to have happened between 7 and 8 p.m. on Sept. 3. The incident report follows Armistead’s story.
“When he got in the vehicle, he noticed the tailgate was down,” Davidson said, reading from the report.
He said that according to the report, Shannon Armistead “body slammed” his assailant, giving him the chance to get in the truck and drive away.
Davidson said he didn’t know anything about the suspects or what they could be charged with.
He also said the Creeper Trail and the surrounding area is usually pretty safe — save a May 2010 incident in which three Damascus men are accused of ambushing a pair of brothers from Iowa, beating them and videotaping the action.
“Otherwise we’ve had very little problems,” he said. “The only thing we have… is an occasional theft from a vehicle will get reported. There are a lot of individuals who frequent the Creeper Trail.”
Armistead said she didn’t know of the May incident until after her husband’s assault. She said she wishes she had, because her family might have enlisted another family to go biking with them, or they might have gone earlier in the day.
She said she doubts they’ll go back.
“It’s sad,” she said. “It was a beautiful trail and we enjoyed it so much before that happened. I don’t think we’ll ever go back. I hate to say that, but I don’t think so.”