COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Defense Supply Center Columbus police responded to a call at the Yearling Road Gate Jan. 18 after a disoriented, elderly man walked onto the installation trying to get to his father’s house.
Officer David Webb was the first on site and realized this was not a normal situation; Sgt. Jerry Pyle arrived shortly after. “The only information he could tell us was his age, 70. He couldn’t tell us his birthday, where he was from or anything else,” Pyle said.
The officers were able to obtain his driver’s license and ran it through the database system. That’s when Pyle confirmed the suspicion about this being an unusual stop. The terminal provided an alert for a missing person.
Family had reported him missing from Massillon, Ohio roughly 48 hours prior and noted he suffers from dementia, high blood pressure and early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He had also been without his medicines for approximately 36 hours.
The family was notified their missing relative was found and they immediately left their home in Massillon, Ohio and headed to Columbus to be reunited. On the previous day, police had discovered his vehicle on Interstate 670. He had run out of gas, grabbed his gas can and started walking. He was wandering around the city for almost a full day before he arrived at the DSCC gates.
“We thought he was originally from the area because he mentioned many times that he wanted to go to his dad’s house and pointed to the other side of the installation,” said Pyle. “He was nervous and confused.”
"This was a hard situation; the person appeared disoriented. He made several comments saying ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’,” said Pyle.
Lt. Harry Salcone said the officers’ training was able help the situation. One of the initial responding officers, Webb, recognized the lights and sirens were causing unnecessary agitation. “Webb took action and turned off the overhead — reds and blues — which calmed the man’s anxiety and improved the situation almost immediately,” Pyle said.
“The reward of the gentleman being reunited with his family was great,” Lt. Marco Schmigotzki said, “It was such a great thing to be involved in something so positive.”
Salcone also spoke on the response team’s actions. “When you look at the totality of what happened, this is what I would call excellence in action,” he said. “These officers and sergeants responded to an unknown situation, made an evaluation and brought the situation to a logical conclusion. They train for situations like these, but to see it implemented and the positive outcome is what this job is about. It’s an incredible thing that doesn’t happen all the time.”