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Friends of slain deputy JD Paugh gather to ride bikes

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Last fall, Richmond County Deputy James “JD” Paugh convinced the owner of Crazy Turks Pizza to start a bike night on Mondays, the deputy’s day off.

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Meisam Shodja, owner of Crazy Turk's Pizza, gives a thumbs up to Richmond County officers to signal that the memorial bike ride for slain Richmond County sheriff's Deputy James "JD" Paugh is ready to begin at the restaurant's parking lot.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Meisam Shodja, owner of Crazy Turk's Pizza, gives a thumbs up to Richmond County officers to signal that the memorial bike ride for slain Richmond County sheriff's Deputy James "JD" Paugh is ready to begin at the restaurant's parking lot.

“We’d only been open for about a month,” said Amanda Gary, the manager of the Washington Road restaurant. “He kind of came in and took over.”

One year after Paugh, a deputy on the motorcycle squad, was killed on his way home from a special duty assignment, hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts gathered at Crazy Turks to pay tribute to the man who loved to ride. On Sunday, bikers from all over the state showed up, on bikes ranging from Harleys to Hondas.

At 1 p.m., they rode about 55 miles to Appling, around to Lake Thurmond, over to Furys Ferry Road and back to the restaurant in his name. Then a live band played as friends and family gathered on the patio.

“Today is about getting together and remembering JD,” said restaurant owner Meisam Shodja. “No fundraisers, no ulterior motive. Just a ride because JD loved to ride.”

Shodja said some of the bikers knew Paugh, and those who hadn’t had heard about him.

“JD became a close friend quickly,” he said. “He was like that with everyone.”

A childhood friend of Paugh’s, Greg Smith, said it was important to have Sunday’s ride focus on getting people together to remember his friend. He said Paugh would have wanted them to have fun.

“I said, ‘Let’s just get together,’ ” Smith said. “Let’s sit down and tell lies. Just have some fun.”

Robert Paugh said he knew how much his brother loved motorcycles, although he never could really wrap his head around it.

“I asked him why he would want to be on a bike in 110 degrees and in freezing weather when he could have been in a patrol car,” he said. “He kept telling me, ‘You don’t understand.’ ”

Robert Paugh said he was in awe that so many people came out to remember his brother. He said he worries his brother’s memory will fade, but Sunday’s show of support helped shake that feeling.

“I’m worried it will become just another day,” he said. “But I also know that JD’s memory belongs to a lot of people. It’s not just our family who lost him.”

Before the bikers headed out, two Richmond County deputies stopped traffic either way on Washington Road. Paugh’s parents drove their truck behind hundreds of bikers.

Even after the bikers left, the patio was full of friends who came to share memories.

Gary said Paugh became such a staple at the restaurant that they started carrying Diet Mountain Dew on tap, his favorite soda.

“I never understood why he liked that stuff,” she said. “But he was an important part of this place.”


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