LAKE TWP. — Family members of a township man killed by a Uniontown police officer are disturbed that a Discovery TV program plans to air police body camera video of the deadly confrontation.
Susan Troyer, whose biological son Ryan Probst was killed in 2017 in the home he shared with her parents, his wife and daughter, feels the program victimizes her family, which continues to mourn.
“It shows the inside of my parents’ house, the shooting between Ryan and the officer in the garage, my dad in the driveway, Ryan’s wife in the driveway. ... This serves no good to the community,” Troyer said.
One of the officers involved, retired Sgt. David White, offers a different perspective.
“Their son was the suspect. I’m the victim,” said White, who suffered four bullet wounds in the exchange. “They’re alive today because [Officer Brian Duman] and I were there and stopped him.
“The documentary is not about him. It’s about police and what they go through. It’s about how quick it can go from routine to deadly instantly.”
Investigation Discovery’s “Body Cam” show is slated to air Tuesday. A trailer containing portions of the body camera footage detailing the incident can be seen at investigationdiscovery.com.
The footage shows the officers being called to Probst’s home on Lela Avenue Northwest, where the 28-year-old former U.S. Marine had smacked his wife, shoved his grandfather against the wall and wielded loaded guns. The officers call out for Probst, ordering him to drop the weapon.
The interior of the home is clearly visible as Probst darts from a lower-level doorway into a garage, where he fires multiple times at White. White fires several shots back. And then, in another exchange of gunfire, Duman shoots Probst, who later died.
Troyer pointed to Ohio House Bill 425, legislation under consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives that would remove from public record any body-cam footage that shows the inside of a victim’s home or business.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, is behind the bill, which seeks to define when footage is public and specific circumstances it should be withheld. One of those stipulations included making the interior of a home or business private.
But that has changed as the bill moved through the governmental system, Antani said. If a police use of force issue is involved, the footage is public record.
Troyer said her family maintains the body-cam footage should never have been released to the Investigation Discovery program.
“The police participated in a show focused on entertainment value and ratings,” she said.
The program includes other police departments and body-cam footage.
“They revictimize family and not just ours. To me, it’s not morally or ethically responsible for police to participate in an entertainment show themselves,” Troyer said.
“A lot of what the police do should be public record. But when it’s damaging to family members left behind and serves no purpose, that’s when is should not be released. There is a difference between what is news and what is entertainment, and this show is for entertainment.”
She and her parents said they were unaware of the TV program until a few weeks ago when the trailer was released on social media.
Former Police Chief Harold Britt, who served as police chief when the incident occurred, said the family was well aware.
“We let everybody know what [the documentary crew members] were going to do,” he said. “Officers went out to the house, the fire station, the police station with the filming crews.”
“Ryan Probst is not a victim, he’s a suspect. They’re not the victims of anything. Dave White’s the victim. And this documentary is about the use of body cameras. That’s what we were told when they filmed everything. It was how they’ve become basically everyday life for police officers.”
Britt said he understands the family’s concerns.
“They still lost a son, a husband or a father. ... It probably brings up a bad situation for them. But it’s public record and it’s better to be truthful and honest,” Britt said.
The release of the body-cam footage wasn’t meant for anything other than to show what police work entails. The producers simply asked those involved to “review the case and what you did in that situation and how you felt, but it was more about Dave than Ryan,” Britt said. “Nobody got paid for anything. We didn’t get paid to be interviewed.”
Uniontown Police Chief Mike Batchik maintains “it’s still a public record and as a law enforcement agency, we have to abide by that.”
Batchik said he had checked with the department’s legal counsel in May when the producers asked for the footage. He was advised the body-cam footage is public record and released it in June.
“These body cams are there not only for our protection, but for the protection of everybody else,” Batchik said. “They hold the officers accountable, they hold the public accountable.”
Who was Ryan?
Family members said airing the footage paints an unfair portrait of Probst.
“Ryan was more than that one moment. He was a son, a brother, a father. ... He had a family. He was a Marine,” Troyer said.
Family members relive the tragedy daily in their home.
Ryan Probst’s grandmother, Shirley Probst, who had adopted him, wept as she talked about that night.
She remembered seeing him “right there, right on the steps” just moments before he was shot, she said.
Ryan Probst graduated from Lake High School in 2008 and, a week later, joined the service. But about three years later, a motorcycle crash in California cut short his military career.
“He suffered brain damage. He had a plate in his back and in his leg. He was diagnosed with major, severe depression, and he received a general discharge,” said Jim Probst, 80.
When he returned home, Ryan wasn’t the same, his grandfather said.
The young man was still helpful with his family and his neighbors. He built things around the house, helped people start broken-down cars and removed tree limbs after heavy storms for people he didn’t even know.
But his grandfather said, Ryan Probst suffered from paranoia and frequently disappeared for days at a time. Ryan Probst, who lived in the lower level of the house with his wife and young daughter, installed an elaborate camera system around the home.
And when he’d come upstairs in the morning, “You were never sure which Ryan you were going to meet,” his grandmother said.
The Probsts said they occasionally were awakened by Ryan, who had a gun to their heads or to his own.
“He went through hell with mental health problems, and [as a result] so did we,” Jim Probst said.
That night and beyond
The night he died, Ryan Probst had gone to dinner with his family and returned home. Jim Probst said Ryan snapped, accusing his wife of cheating on him and smacking her in the face.
“I grabbed the phone and I went down there and I said, ‘Ryan, we’re not going to live like this anymore,’ ” the elder Probst said.
“Then he grabbed me and slammed me up against the wall. His eyes were greenish. He was not right. It was like the devil was in him.”
Then the police arrived.
“Every time we think, ‘This is the end of it,’ along comes this [body camera] thing,” Shirley Probst said, wiping away tears.
White, who served as a police officer for 27 years, recalls that night every day, too. He now works for a plumbing business.
“I took four bullets and I still have two of them in me,” said White, also a Marine who served four years of active duty before he was honorably discharged with a good conduct medal. “And I’m going to be facing problems the rest of my life.
“They can relive that incident that happened, but I’m the one that went in and seen the gun pointed at me ... I tried to [use a stun gun] him. He shot first. I have to relive it every day. I’ve had eight surgeries, more than six weeks in the hospital after surgery. I was near death. They had to tell my wife for three days they didn’t know if I would make it or not.”
That night, and every time he worked, White said, “We know there’s a risk, and we’re willing to take it.”
And that’s why he agreed to the Investigation Discovery program.
“They’re trying to depict our job and give people the chance to see what we saw and see what it’s like,” White said. “I think the documentary will help clue the public in because it’s going to show people what we do and give them a chance to walk in our shoes.”