Suspect being held on $5 million bond as ohio community honors its fallen hero

By Diane Herbst
Updated January 19, 2016 07:17 PM

It is close to 2 a.m. on Jan. 9 when Canton, Ohio, police officer Ryan Davis and his beloved police dog, Jethro, enter a grocery store to investigate a burglary call.

The pair makes their way through the darkened doorway to a room. Jethro quickly moves ahead of Davis and around a corner. Within moments, “I hear the shots and his yelp,” Davis tells PEOPLE.

A police scanner records the tense seconds that unfold. Davis yells: “Shots fired! Shots fired! My partner’s been shot”.

Davis can’t see what is wrong with Jethro because the store is completely dark. Soon a fellow K9 handler shows up, followed by Canton’s fire department paramedics. They lie Jethro on a gurney and speed off in an ambulance to an emergency veterinary hospital.

At the clinic, after the x-rays and examinations, doctors find that no vital organs are hit. But “his eyes were going in different directions, they weren’t looking at the same thing,” recalls Davis. The gunfire has caused a severe brain injury. Doctors sedate and medicate Jethro and try to get the swelling on his brain under control.

For the next 30 hours, Davis stays by Jethro’s side. “It was tough,” Davis says. Finally, he receives some positive news: “I was given the ‘We’ve got him where we want him’ and he was stabilized and we could focus on healing.”

But soon after this announcement, an officer runs in with tragic update. “He quit breathing,” Davis recalls.

Courtesy of Officer Ryan Davis

Davis rushes into the room where veterinarians are doing chest compressions and using a bag to make Jethro breath. Ten, 15 minutes pass. “The vet gave me a look of ‘There is nothing else we can do,’” Davis says. “He fought and it came to that point when it was time for him to have his peace.”

The vetrinarians move away. “I just laid over the top of him and started babbling,” he says, “like an incoherent bawling.”

Davis remains heartbroken, and feels a part of him is missing. He wishes he could trade places with Jethro.

“I owe him a debt I will never be able to repay,” the officer says. “He gave his life away. I’m here because of what he did.”

Jethro had been with Davis and his family for almost three years, since he was a goofy 8-week-old puppy. Jethro had loved the water and would jump off a dock at a local lake after Davis’ two children dove in. Eleven months ago, after Davis’s other partner, a German Shepherd named Armin, retired, Jethro joined the force.

The pair went on over 1,000 calls together. Domestics. Neighborhood disputes. Burglary alarms. “Every call he was with me,” says Davis. “He was my right hand.”

Last week, the city of Canton honored their fallen hero. Hundreds of police officers from across the country fill Canton’s civic center, which echoed with moving tributes on what would have been Jethro’s third birthday.

“It’s rough,” says Davis. “There’s a hole. It’s the loss of a family member.”

Meanwhile, the alleged killer is in custody and being held on a $5 million bond.

Courtesy of Officer Ryan Davis

Days after Jethro’s death, Davis receives a call from K9s4Cops, a non-profit started by Houston animal lover, philanthropist and PEOPLE hero Kristi Schiller.

K9s4Cops provides, for free, dogs trained in narcotics, explosive or firearms detection to police departments across the country. They are offering Davis another partner. “I was shocked,” says Davis. “My head has been spinning.”

This Sunday, Davis is flying to Houston to meet prospective new partners at the non-profit’s training facility. Another dog handler is accompanying Davis.

“He’s going with me for emotional support,” says Davis. “It’s gonna be rough, but I think it’s all still part of the healing process, to move on.”