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NEW PHILADELPHIA -- Tuscarawas County Sheriff Orvis Campbell and Newcomerstown Police Chief Gary Holland said Tuesday they were disappointed to learn that an officer's report of being shot during a traffic stop was a lie.
The investigation revealed that Bryan J. Eubanks, 37, shot himself in a failed suicide attempt. His subsequent claim that he was shot by a tattooed man who was a passenger in a black Geo Tracker set off a three-county search for a suspect involving some 100 law-enforcement officers. He admitted the story was a fraud in an interview with investigators on Tuesday.
"This is the biggest kick in the gut we could have here," Campbell said at an afternoon news conference about the investigation into a Newcomerstown officer's claim related to the April 11 incident. "The outcome of the case is not as we have hoped. The more information we tracked down, the more it didn't look good for us.
"We know exactly what this says for our profession," the sheriff said. "Nothing could be more upsetting to us than the fact that this was fake.
"You know, at a time where law enforcement has its share of supporters, but definitely has its share of non-supporters, this is the last thing that we ever wanted to happen.
"But what I want people to remember is there's a lot of cops right here in this county and this is one guy, one incident. Here in the Tuscarawas County jail, I've put medical doctors back there, lawyers, we've had other law enforcement back there.
"And we're just human, and I hope that people will not judge the entire Newcomerstown Police Department or all of Tuscarawas County law enforcement in this," Campbell said. "It's just something that happened."
Campbell and Holland said Eubanks had been struggling with emotional issues since he worked on the murder of Jane Davis, a 53-year-old woman killed July 22, allegedly by her son.
"We talk about officers," Holland said. "I think we have to realize that they're human — human frailties, and some of the experiences that officers have on a daily basis does play into their emotions and their mental stability.
"So when we try to look at that, I think we have to look at the compassionate side. They're no different than anybody else in society.
"The only difference is they're expected to carry a bigger burden."
Holland fired Eubanks Tuesday after the 14-year village officer admitted to making a false report.
The sheriff said the conclusion of the inquiry into the shooting was difficult to accept.
"To be completely honest with you, we kept checking ourself, like 'How could we be wrong here?,'" Campbell said. "At the end of the day, we had to do our job. He'll be held accountable just like anybody else will."
The sheriff said this is the third incident in his 24 years in law enforcement in which he has encountered officers falsely claiming there was a shooting, although this is the first one that involved an injury.
Campell said Eubanks was released to his family Tuesday to receive treatment for mental health issues.
"To be honest with you, at the time of the interview, he looked like he needed it," the sheriff said.
Campbell said Eubanks' wife had concerns about her husband's behavior and lack of sleep before the April 11 incident.
Campbell said officers who find themselves emotionally troubled by their work have resources available locally to help them cope.
"At some point, for your own family's sake, if you're under stress in any position, whether it's a law-enforcement officer or whatever, you just need to talk to somebody and get the ball rolling," the sheriff said. "I think (Eubanks) kept it in, didn't do any of that. I think people recognized there was something wrong, but didn't know what, didn't know how to handle it, because he wouldn't talk about it."
Holland said he believes the reason Eubanks shot himself while on duty, and told his dispatcher that he had made a traffic stop, was so that he would have been found dead while on duty.
"One of the intentions may have been to shoot himself and, if it was determined to be a homicide, there's quite a financial benefit for your family," Campbell said. "We don't know that. He did not tell us that."
Campbell said he has seen similar cases in which people who tried to commit suicide either wounded themselves in minor ways or missed completely.
Of Eubanks, the sheriff said, "As he was getting the courage, he flinched and everything went the wrong way."
Campbell said Eubanks started making up details about the traffic stop to cover what happened, even naming a suspect.
"I think it was a situation that just got away from him," Campbell said.
During Tuesday's interview, Campbell said Eubanks seemed "like a man scared to lose everything he ever cared about, from employment to family. When you back yourself into a corner with so many deceptions and the risk is so great, it's a very tough thing to come back and admit.
"In fact, I don't know that you get somebody more desperate than this. I think he knew immediately his job was going to be over and now he's got concerns to keep his family together. This is about as bad a decision as you could have made.
"We all feel hurt," Campbell said. "We all feel betrayed."