MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – The owners of an unofficial neighborhood watchdog were inside a week ago when they heard two gunshots.
When they investigated, they found Sniper had collapsed in the front yard near the driveway – the victim, they say, of an intentional shooting.
“It’s getting to me now. But I know my dog,” said 20-year-old LaNaudia Ely, who got the Rottweiler and Labrador mix as a 16th birthday present. “So, when I just seen him on the ground like that and everybody else saw it, I just knew something was wrong with him.”
Mobile police initially logged the incident as a dog struck by a vehicle, but the Elys told FOX10 News that a veterinarian found a bullet fragment lodged in the dog’s collarbone. Police spokeswoman Katrina Frazier said the department has received an X-ray but have not yet assigned an investigator to the case.
But LaNaudia’s mother, Donavette Ely, said she has no doubt it was intentional. She said the dog was no ordinary mutt. She said he was the neighborhood’s protector, walking a circular route, almost as if he were patrolling.
“He has stopped several fights, several break-ins,” she said. “We’re not sure where this is where it is why sniper was targeted. Maybe he was stopping someone who had intentions to break in and so this construction site next to us, or maybe someone has something more sinister planned.”
One time, Ely said, Sniper even saved the life of a neighbor who was having a heart attack by alerting neighbors to the emergency.
The violent incident that caused Sniper’s death occurred at about 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 in front of the Ely home on Ogburn Avenue, near Mobile Downtown Airport. Surveillance video from a neighbor shows a vehicle turning onto Ogburn Avenue, followed by two gunshots. A few moments later, there are two more gunshots. Ely said that was a neighbor returning fire.
She said she could hear the dog crying on the surveillance footage just before the first shots.
Ely had T-shirts made up with the dog’s photo, bracketed the phrase, “Justice for Sniper.”
Ely said she never trained the dog to be anything more than a pet, but she added it quickly became clear he saw himself as the area’s watchdog. She said he had three different barks – one when he hunted, one he used to interact with other dogs and a howling sound he used to alert to an intruder.
“Sometimes he would tell me to go back in if he’s very scared, or if he doesn’t want me to be hurt,” he said. “He’ll cry until I go back in and he’ll take care of himself.”
LaNaudia Ely said the dog’s presence had a noticeable impact on crime in the immediate area.
“Some people don’t even ride their four wheelers no more ’cause they know Sniper might chase them. … There hasn’t been that much crime since he’s been on patrol,” she said.
Her mother offered several specific examples.
“If there was going to be a fight or altercation involving a gun, Sniper would interrupt that situation,” Ely said. “Sniper has broken up fights between teenagers. He’s responded to people trying to break in the other neighbor’s house.”
Sniper made the residents feel safe, especially during times after hurricanes when the electricity was out and it was dark, Ely said.
“They love them. They feed him steak,” she said. “I mean, they literally cook him a steak. So that’s how valuable and important Sniper was to not just us as a family, but to this community.”