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Friends, family gather to honor man shot by Stow police officer and raise awareness about mental health

Akron Beacon Journal - 9/11/2017

Sept. 11--On Sept. 3, Billy Porubsky went to church.

He spent the morning praying for a change, said his grandmother, Judy Varner.

But that change never came. Porubsky was shot to death by a Stow police officer later that night.

"He felt like he had demons he was trying to get rid of," Varner said. "He was finally reaching out for help."

On Sunday night, about 125 of Porubsky's friends and family gathered at Stow City Hall to hold a candlelight vigil in his memory while raising awareness about some of his biggest demons.

Robert Molody, a Stow police officer who has been on the force since 2005, fatally shot Porubsky, 30, of Cuyahoga Falls, after the two were involved in an altercation outside Haven of Rest Ministries in Akron.

Molody knew Porubsky and had dealt with him before, said Patty Barnes, a family friend of the Porubskys.

Much of the Stow and Akron police departments had. Both departments had taken him to the hospital psychiatric unit in the past, Barnes said, as he dealt with mental health and drug abuse issues.

Porubsky's issues only worsened after his mother was killed in a car crash in 2008.

He bounced between rehab centers, jail and living with friends and family the past several years, but he never got the help he needed, Barnes said.

Final moments

Molody's body camera footage of the incident shows him driving Porubsky to the Haven of Rest shelter in Akron, where Porubsky asked to go instead of a friend's house he'd been staying at.

When the two got to Haven of Rest, Porubsky became increasingly agitated. He refused to get out of the police cruiser and swore at Molody until the officer pulled his stun gun.

Molody eventually used his stun gun and Porubsky lunged at him, which knocked the weapon and Molody's bodycam away.

The video ends with two shots, and Molody calling dispatch to say, "Shots fired."

Regardless of the tragic incident, some of Porubsky's family and friends say they aren't resentful of Molody.

"I truly believe that that officer, in those final moments, did what he had to do," Barnes said. "When I saw Billy lunge in that video, it scared me."

But others at the vigil had questions.

"And why didn't he just shoot him in the leg?" asked Varner, Porubsky's grandmother. "This should never have happened ... I just can't understand it."

Goal of awareness

Neither Barnes nor Billy Porubsky's brother Dan, who both organized the vigil, spent any time criticizing the officer.

Instead, they used the vigil to raise awareness about the issues at stake: mental health, drug abuse and police training.

"It's a failure of the system, to be honest," said Dan Porubsky, 33, who lives in Polk, Pa. "There were so many opportunities missed to seize resources to prevent this from happening."

At the vigil, there were two tables filled with pamphlets about resources in Summit County and information on officer training. Another table was covered with water bottles that had Billy Porubsky's face on them and a bracelet that said "Jesus."

Friends and family members wore stickers that had pictures of him smiling and brought posters with his picture on them. One said, "I am someone worth saving."

Speakers at the vigil included Billy Porubsky's friends, his prayer group leader, a pastor and a woman who worked with addicts.

Friends remembered Billy as someone who was funny and spread positivity -- "a riot," said Varner, who is from Johnstown, Pa., and was there with her husband, Robert.

"He was my best friend. My first friend. My first enemy. The sibling rivalry was always crazy at our house," said Dan Porubsky as tears welled in his eyes. "He was such a good kid."

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.


(c)2017 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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