When one of the men living at 444 E. 16th Ave. awoke to the sound of footsteps running up and down his stairs, he turned on the lights — and realized his house had been burglarized.
Once the other housemates were aware of what happened, they didn’t call the cops. They didn’t even take an inventory of all the stuff that was missing. Instead, they grabbed a crowbar and a baseball bat and jumped into action.
“Our adrenaline’s going, and we’re mad,” recalled Dominique Ybanes, a second-year in strategic communication and one of the renters of the property. “So if we see them, we’re going to take the opportunity.”
It wasn’t long before that opportunity arose.
With flashlights in hand, Ybanes and his housemates hit the streets.
“(My housemate was) just like, ‘They have to be around here. They have to be around here.’ So we shut off all our lights, shut our front door and we scope around the area,” Ybanes said.
Before long, they spotted a man in all black holding an iPad mini hiding in some bushes near their house. They also saw two other men with Xboxes take off running.
Together, they tackled the man in the bushes.
“(My housemate) grabbed him and threw him down and we held him, trying to get some answers,” Ybanes said. “It looked like a deer in headlights. He was scared.”
Ybanes and his housemates demanded the suspect, later identified as 20-year-old Shay Stuck, call his partner in crime to bring back their stuff.
“He called his friend and he was like crying, ‘They’re gonna beat me up. You gotta come back,’” Ybanes said. “We told his friend, ‘You have 10 minutes to bring us our stuff back. We have your number, you’re all going to get in trouble.’”
Justin Henderson, a second-year in international business and one of Ybanes’ housemates, said he wasn’t really scared that night. At that point, Henderson said he was just on the hunt for the people who’d wronged him.
“We were just trying to get s— done. We were taking care of business,” Henderson said. “We just wanted our s— back.”
The stolen items — which included a laptop, iPad mini, phone and longboards, estimated by Ybanes to be worth more than $2,000 total — were not all returned that night, but Ybanes said police have since found the house where the suspects were keeping all their items. Ybanes said they should be getting their things back this week.
Henderson said the burglars had come in through their back door, which two of their friends had left unlocked when they went home earlier that night.
Officers arrived on scene after several neighbors called the police to report a disturbance because of all the racket the men were making while tackling and talking to Stuck.
When the police arrived, they found 18-year-old Preston Wilbur and later 19-year-old Ashley Martin in a nearby car who they determined were both also a part of the burglary. The cops popped open the trunk of the car and found even more stolen goods — some of which didn’t belong to the men of East 16th Avenue.
That helped tip officers off to the fact that this wasn’t a one-time incident.
“The next thing we know is we’ve got at least one burglary, which multiplied up to at least six,” said Columbus Division of Police Commander Christopher Bowling. “We started realizing how many more they had done.”
Bowling said a total of four people were involved in the plot, and police think they’re responsible for at least five other burglaries in the off-campus area, the majority of which occurred between East 12th and East 16th avenues. One of the connected burglaries was reported to have occurred on North 4th Street.
Wilbur and Stuck were both arrested and charged with one count of burglary that night. Both cases were dismissed in Franklin County Municipal Court and both were listed as closed as of Sunday afternoon, according to a FCMC website search. Wilbur, however, also has an open case listed on the FCMC website for one count of burglary. That case’s address is listed as 420 E. 13th Ave. — another address listed on Columbus Police’s release of burglary locations.
Another of the burglary-suspects-in-question is a juvenile and faces six counts of burglary charges, three counts of felony theft and one count of misdemeanor theft, according to a CPD press release. The Lantern is not releasing his name because of his age.
When Ybanes and his housemates ventured to take down the suspects that night, they had no idea they were taking down a ring of bandits who police say are responsible for a string of burglaries, but Ybanes said it only makes their actions that much sweeter.
“We were like, ‘We’re the new neighborhood honchos around here,’” Ybanes said. “People can sleep safe with us when we’re on duty.”