DUBLIN, Va. (WFXR) — After nearly three weeks on the run and a multi-county search, authorities announced Tuesday that Shawn Michael Tolbert was taken into custody in Dublin, where he spent more than two days living in a bus in a man’s backyard.
According to Virginia State Police, on Thursday, Aug. 11, the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office asked them to keep an eye out for a vehicle that was involved in the theft of lottery tickets from a gas station at exit 162 in Botetourt County.
A state trooper tried to stop a vehicle closely matching the initial description of the suspect vehicle, but when the trooper activated their emergency lights, the vehicle sped away, officials say.
Police tell WFXR News the pursuit continued until the vehicle crashed in Craig County. The driver, identified as 42-year-old Tolbert of Burkeville, reportedly ran away from the scene.
Even though the investigation determined the vehicle Tolbert was driving was not the vehicle suspected in the Botetourt County lottery tickets theft, authorities previously reported that Tolbert was wanted for multiple charges, including the following:
- Charges from Virginia State Police:
- Three counts of felony eluding
- Three counts of reckless driving
- Charges from the Craig County Sheriff’s Office:
- Criminal trespassing
- False identification
- Two counts of felony assault on a police officer
In the following days, both Craig County and Giles County authorities followed up on possible sightings of Tolbert, warning residents to be vigilant and make sure their homes and vehicles were locked up.
Then, on Thursday, Aug. 18, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office announced that word came in about a report of an attempted breaking and entering at a residence in the Brush Mountain Estates area. The investigation and photos received from that home reportedly led officials to believe that the person who was trying to break in was Tolbert.
Montgomery County authorities spent that night and the following day searching around Brush Mountain Estates for Tolbert, but it was not successful.
However, on Tuesday, Aug. 30, Pulaski County and Craig County officials confirmed Tolbert was arrested in Dublin after a resident — and later a police officer — said they spotted someone matching the fugitive’s description.
WFXR News’ Rhian Lowndes spoke exclusively with Andrew Fitzgerald, who owns the backyard bus in which Tolbert had been living when he was taken into custody.
“I gave him a ride and he said he was hungry and had had nothing to eat,” said Fitzgerald, who had picked up Tolbert on the side of the road, not knowing the man was a potentially dangerous fugitive wanted in multiple counties.
Fitzgerald says he even put Tolbert up in the bus behind his house, which is something he’s done before to help people who need a roof over their heads.
“He helped me around the house the next day,” Fitzgerald added. “He fixed my car.”
According to Fitzgerald, law enforcement eventually came to his home on Tuesday and tore the bus apart trying to get to Tolbert.
The Dublin resident tells WFXR News he was shocked to learn that the manhunt that spanned nearly three weeks and five counties, would end in his backyard.
“I only saw them bring him out and it scared me, but we sure got a good team out here, I tell you, they were wonderful,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald says Tolbert was a kind man, but he’s still relieved authorities caught him when they did.