Everyone is familiar with party crashers, but have you ever heard of anyone crashing high school sporting events just to get a piggyback ride?
A stocky man shows up in a basketball uniform for a game at Century High School in North Dakota. No one objects because the players and coaches assume he is a fan who had come with another team.
“He helped lay out uniforms, got water. He even gave a couple of kids shoulder massages. Creepy stuff like that,” said Jim Haussler - activities director for the Bismarck Public School District. Creepy is good word to describe this behavior, but it gets weirder.
When the game was over, the hefty man hung out with the winning team on the court and asked if he could get a piggyback ride. One player was caught off guard but gave him one.
“He makes himself appear as if he’s limited or handicapped. I think he plays an empathy card, so to speak,” Haussler said. “We didn’t realize what we were dealing with until several days later.”
They later learned that on that Feb. 4 evening, they had come in contact with the Piggyback Bandit. Sherwin Shayegan of Bothell, Wash., is a 28-year-old man who ingratiates himself with high school sports teams. He then hoists his hefty 5-foot-8, 240-pound frame onto the backs of the student athletes.
Shayegan’s strange acts reach back to 2008 and had been mainly confined to Washington and Oregon. Since last fall, he has taken his strange act east to Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, leaving a trail of befuddled athletes in his wake.
Shayegan favors basketball games, but he also sprung himself onto hockey, soccer and football players. This guy either asks for piggyback rides, offers to pay for them or sometimes just springs himself onto some poor, unsuspecting player’s back.
Shayegan has also used the guise of pretending to interview athletes for a term paper, acting as a team manager or simply blending in with the group to get his piggyback thrills.
No one has been able to determine why he does these strange things or who coined the “Piggyback Bandit” nickname.
Shayegan, contacted on his cellphone Tuesday, politely declined to talk about the piggyback rides until he could talk to an attorney. “I’d prefer not to comment, if that’s OK,” he said.
Shayegan has a lengthy criminal rapsheet in Washington as well as nine outstanding warrants in one town in that state. His piggyback games caused him to be banned from high school sporting events in Washington, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.
In October, Shayegan was arrested in Helena, Mont., for jumping on two high school soccer players during a state tournament.
Mark Beckman, executive director of the Montana High School Sports Association said, “What’s disturbing to me is that he is jumping on our young athletes, he is 240 pounds, and he can hurt someone.”
Shayegan pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to two misdemeanor assault charges. He was fined $730, given a 360-day suspended prison sentence and told not to go to any more Montana high school events. “Go back to Seattle and behave,” Judge Bob Wood told him.
None of this stopped Shayegan. Three days later, he attended the Bismarck basketball game and received another piggyback ride. He also scored another piggyback ride from a hockey player after the game on that same day.
Surveillance video shows Shayegan dressed in a basketball uniform and hanging out with students in the hallway of the Century High School in North Dakota. This one-day spree caused him to be banned from sporting events by the North Dakota High School Activities Association.
Again, Shayegan was not deterred. He took his act to Minnesota that same week and appeared at three basketball games. He even attended one college game. At that Feb. 8 game, Shayegan sat near the St. Olaf bench. As in the Bismark game, everyone assumed he had come with the other team. (more…)