A stolen bike has turned into a story that has captured the heart of the Solon community.
It was a regular day on patrol in the Park East apartment complex last week, when Solon Officer William DiGiovanni, known to the department as Billy D, was approached by a young man.
“Often times I like to get out of my car and walk around,” Officer DiGiovanni, 43, said. “I’m that kind of officer.”
Colion Mitchell, 18, asked the officer how to file a police report because his bike was stolen.
“I told him, ‘I can take your report right here, and we will look for it,’” Officer DiGiovanni recalled.
Mr. Mitchell, a graduate of Twinsburg High School, went on to describe the bike. Although he didn’t know the brand, he knew all its defects — a broken pedal and broken brake handle, among others. He discovered his bike stolen when he woke up at 4:30 that morning to go to work at Wendy’s, about a mile away from his apartment, on Aurora Road.
The bike is his only means of transportation as he does not have a driver’s license.
“I really felt for him,” Officer DiGiovanni said.
He decided to share Mr. Mitchell’s story with the community via social media in an effort to locate the bike.
This is not the first time Officer DiGiovanni has taken a report to heart.
“One time I gave kids couches because they didn’t have them in their apartment,” said Officer DiGiovanni, the father of three sons.
While he has always hesitated to share those stories or ask for help, Officer DiGiovanni went ahead with the Facebook post because bicycles are in high demand with prices rising.
“I was flooded with people wanting to give me brand new bikes and people offering to pay,” he said.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, donated a bike her husband won at a raffle and had barely been used.
Officer DiGiovanni picked up the bike, took it to Solon Bicycle for a complete safety inspection and then purchased a headlight for it, since Mr. Mitchell rides to work in the early morning hours.
“I wanted him to be safe,” Officer DiGiovanni said. The police department added a new bike lock and a repair kit to the package before it was delivered to the Mr. Mitchell.
Mr. Mitchell had no idea a new bike was coming his way until Officer DiGiovanni showed up at Wendy’s on Aurora Road in Solon with the surprise.
“He was thrilled and very appreciative,” Officer DiGiovanni said. “He could not believe he was getting a new bike.
“I explained it was not from me, but everyone in the community.”
Mr. Mitchell, who has worked for Wendy’s for five months on the grill and with food prep, said he was “super surprised.
“I had been pretty upset my bike was stolen,” he said. “I ride it everywhere I need to go.
“I was so grateful and could not believe he actually got me a bike,” Mr. Mitchell said.
Officer DiGiovanni said it’s all in a day’s work.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to help people,” said Officer DiGiovanni, who has been with the department for nearly 18 years. “I have run into stories like this. I usually take the time to talk to people rather than just write a report and leave.”
Officer DiGiovanni followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both named William and both police officers.
“This is more important than awards,” he said.
Solon Police Chief Richard Tonelli said Officer DiGiovanni is a compassionate human being.
“Whether that’s walking the schools and playgrounds to interact with them, actively using social media to keep tabs on them, paying out of his pocket for holiday gifts or ice cream, he really values those relationships,” Chief Tonelli said.
Solon officers generally go “above and beyond,” the chief said.
“They see themselves as part of the community they serve, and they want to make a difference.”