Ohio National Guard News

In celebration of National Dog Day, Aug. 26:
Guard member and canine companion
thwart burglary at neighbor’s home

Photo and Story by Staff Sgt. George B. Davis, Ohio National Guard

Maddie, a 4-year-old German Sheppard mix, is restrained by her owner, Ohio Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff Davis. The two were running on Dec. 15, 2014, in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio and confronted two suspected burglars who were kicking in the front door of a nearby neighbor.

Sherry L. Phillips stands with Ohio Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff Davis in front of her Columbus, Ohio home.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (08-26-15) — It was a crisp late afternoon in mid-December, in a quiet neighborhood on a circular lane tucked back from High Street, in the urban Columbus community of Clintonville. In a bungalow-style home, shielded from the street by a tall, mature pine trees, was the setting for an exciting story of the happenstance first meeting of two new neighbors.

“I always go to bed early,” said Sherry Phillips, a retired production manager and 24-year resident of Clintonville, recalling the evening of Dec. 15, 2014. Phillips, a small woman with smile lines around her eyes and wispy, gray hair, had just settled into her evening routine. “I was getting ready to take a shower when I heard somebody knock on the door.”

Phillips lives alone in the pine tree bungalow, in the organized clutter of a lifetime’s worth of belongings. Her aging home is freshened with newer green shutters, almost the same green shade of the Sentinel Pine, and an older, rolling aluminum awning, painted the same green shade, over the front door.

“I’m not really expecting anybody,” Phillips remembers thinking back to that evening. She had just turned on the water and was waiting for it to warm in preparation for her evening shower. “So I’m not even going to answer it.” She then heard a loud crash, followed by a sudden crack.

It was the noise of someone kicking in her front door.

Early winter in Columbus is not optimal weather for running outside. The low, falling sun of a short winter day means that overcast, late afternoons quickly turn into night. But Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff Davis — who works full-time as an operations officer with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Detachment 21, Operational Support Airlift Command at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus — runs most nights, regardless of weather conditions. It could be that he runs in an effort to maintain the physical fitness standards for military personnel, but it is perhaps more likely an effort to burn off some of the excess energy displayed by Maddie, Davis’ hyperactive 4-year-old German Shepherd mix.

Regardless of the reason, Davis and Maddie were running the evening of Dec. 15 in a neighborhood that had not yet grown accustomed to the presence of an evening runner. “It’s a new neighborhood, so I’m finding new areas to run in,” said Davis, who had moved in just weeks before, arriving in the neighborhood on the day before Thanksgiving.

He was completing one of his exploratory runs and had turned down the rounded lane that was his new neighborhood when he heard the same crash and crack that Phillips had heard from her shower. “I looked up to where the sound came from, and on a porch I saw two people,” Davis said.

At first, Davis said he thought that maybe it was some neighborhood kids. “But as soon as they saw me, they split, running opposite me down the road,” he said. “Then I knew; they were robbing that house. So I start screaming at them.”

And this is probably when Maddie, who had also been alerted by the noise and people at the house, began to bark. Maddie’s head is narrower than most pure-bred German Shepherds, but her neck thickens to a very broad chest, probably the cause of her very loud, deep bark, according to Davis. “I think they were probably more afraid of Maddie than me, honestly,” Davis quipped.

As the two people ran away from Davis and Maddie, a car turned onto the lane and flew past them stopping in front of the fleeing door crashers. “They just ran up and got in the car and were like ‘Go, go, go!’ telling their driver to get out of there,” Davis remembered.

“Now I’m just on foot, but where I live there’s no outlet so I knew they had to come back the other way.” So Davis and Maddie turned and raced back to the intersection of the circular lane in the hope of getting the license plate number of the car or positive identification of the people inside it. Unfortunately however, the getaway car raced past him, and in the dark, Davis was not able to make out the plate number or any positive identification of the people inside.

Now near their own home, Davis dropped off Maddie, who was unsurprisingly quite excited with the experience of chasing apparent burglars, at home while Jeff returned to the scene of the attempted break-in.

Unaware of the scene outside, Phillips decided that her shower could wait. “I went out onto the porch where this stranger shows up and tells me he has chased someone off,” she said. “I just felt panic and unbelief. I’ve always felt safe in this neighborhood, but they were just brazen. They were right on the front porch. I hate to think about what would have happened if (Davis) hadn’t come along. I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t actually been right where he was, right at that time.”

The police were called and the new neighbors waited together on the front porch for them to arrive. Eventually the police arrived and the two relayed their stories. “I was just overwhelmingly grateful, I don’t even know how to say how grateful I was,” Phillips said. “Not everybody would do that.”

Responded Davis: “It’s just the right thing to do, you know. I was just chasing them so I could get more information so they would get caught.”

Davis checked in on Phillips the next morning and since that December evening, the two have grown closer. “I bet it’s his training,” speculated Phillips after she learned that Davis was a Soldier and pilot in the National Guard. I mean that’s all I’ve been able to think about. He just knew what to do and he did it.”

The two people who had been strangers only weeks before are now quite firmly neighbors, with their own stories to share and some insight into each other’s lives. The trauma that Phillips said she felt regarding the apparent break-in is countered by the knowledge that she has a neighbor who cares.

“It makes me feel safer,” Phillips said of having a member of the Ohio National Guard in the neighborhood. “It really does.”

In the end, it is another story that illustrates one of the cornerstones of the National Guard — neighbors helping neighbors.