NEWCOMERSTOWN A week ago, people in a southern Tuscarawas County village were fearful after Bryan J. Eubanks, then a police officer, touched off a regional manhunt by saying he had been shot by a passenger in a black Geo Tracker he stopped for having no license plates on the morning of April 11.
But by Tuesday, the story told by the 14-year member of the Newcomerstown Police Department had unraveled under investigation. Eubanks, 37, admitted to lying about the incident to cover up a failed suicide attempt. He was fired Tuesday. Criminal charges are expected to be filed against him for making the false report, which included naming a suspect who was quickly cleared.
In his confession, Eubanks told investigators the suicide attempt arose from stress resulting from investigating the July 22 murder of Jane Davis, who was beaten to death with a hammer.
Citizens expressed varying degrees of disappointment when The Times-Reporter asked them for their views of the incident on Wednesday around lunchtime. Here's what they said:
At the Newcomerstown Senior Center
• Connie Longsworth: "He needs some help. We're all human. Well, he's been upset ever since that ... beating. That would have been horrible to look at. He needs some help and he needs the Lord to help him out, too. It was a trauma to him. He just wasn't sleeping right. I know they're trained. (But) to actually see something like that is completely different. We're praying for him. (Police) don't need negative press like this. They just don't. He put the police to a lot of trouble. He put the town in a lot of danger and fear. I just kept my doors locked all the time."
• Bill VanSickle: "I think it's a disgrace." As for the trauma of seeing the murder scene, "They're trained for that kind of stuff. I feel sorry for his family. Not to think about the embarrassment to the police department. It's discouraging for the whole town."
At the Touraine Club
• Roy McMillan: "I feel the man was trying to get that other young man (the fictitious suspect) in trouble. And I think it's a bunch of bull... trying to kill himself — because you wouldn't shoot yourself in the arm. I feel the young man he blamed it on should go for it. We all decided that whole story was a bunch of bull when it first come out."
• John Gravius: The manhunt was "a waste of manpower. I think he ought to have to pay all that money back. I think he should get in just as much trouble as you and me. Because if you or I did that and caused all that, we would have to pay that money back."
• Jonas Gingerich: "I just think he needs to pay everything back and be treated just like everybody else when they've done something like that. You've got to figure we have to depend on them to keep our community safe. And if they're out there doing stuff like that, I mean, how are you going to trust anybody? I'm sure they'll evaluate it ... to see if it was health issues. I don't believe it was. He thought it through too much, I think."
• Bill Darnell: "It was a waste of time and money. He should repay. He should do his time in prison."
• A man who declined to be identified: "Just wondering why America can't be honest and truthful instead of all these lies going on in this world. And one person, someone you would want to believe in, making up something like that. And then they think the world's so stupid that you'd shoot yourself in the arm, and he's committing suicide?"
At Baker's IGA
• Brandi Addy: "It's just sad. It was an uproar. Especially having kids, you keep kids inside. You worry. You worry about your workplace because everything gets locked down. I work at the (Riverside Manor) nursing home. Things were locked down."
Prayers and sympathy
• Sandra Capper of North Canton called The Times-Reporter to say: "Police should be getting behind him. Newcomerstown police are throwing him under the bus. He has a mental illness. They need to take this into account. They always say 'We're a band of brothers,' and they're throwing this guy under the bus. How's the family going to be supported now? Don't just throw him away like he was an old rag. For 14 years, apparently he wasn't a bad guy.
• Brandi Addy: "Hopefully he gets the help he needs."
• Connie Longsworth: "The Lord says we're supposed to forgive. He also needs our prayers."