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Published: Tuesday, 3/5/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toledoan, 21, gets 30 years for death of bystander in city

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Not once, but twice, when a crowd was gathered late at night, James Sutton IV drew a gun and fired.

The first time, two people were shot, though both survived. The next time, just two months later, Torian Tall, 25, of Toledo, was struck and killed by a single bullet from Sutton’s gun.

Sutton, 21, of Toledo, entered Alford pleas Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to voluntary manslaughter with a firearms specification and two counts of felonious assault. Judge Gary Cook found him guilty and sentenced him to the agreed-upon, maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

“Unfortunately and as is way too often the case, the person who ends up injured, shot, and either dead or severely injured is more often than not a bystander… and that appears to be the case once again,” Judge Cook said, calling the shootings “senseless.”

“When you trace it back to who was doing the shooting, many times and far too often you have to wonder why was this person even there with a gun and why were they even shooting into the situation that caused the damage?” the judge said. “Unfortunately there does not seem to be an answer to that problem in our society because it keeps happening over and over.”

Sutton had been scheduled to go on trial Monday for murder and three counts of felonious assault, each with gun and gang specifications, but instead entered pleas to the amended charges.

Tim Braun, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said Sutton “with very little provocation” fired his gun into groups of people Feb. 19, 2012, and again last April 15.

“Some of them were not his enemies. He just fired into crowds and caused a great deal of pain and suffering,” Mr. Braun said.

He told the court that just after midnight Feb. 19, a fight broke out between two men at the Zodiac bar, 135 S. Byrne Rd., prompting security to clear people out. In the parking lot, Mr. Braun said, Sutton retrieved a gun from a car and fired shots, wounding Brent Cook, 24, and Dennis Garrett, 20.

Two months later, at the Valero gas station in the 3300 block of Monroe Street, Mr. Braun said a large group gathered about 2:30 a.m. Again, Sutton got out of a car and fired three shots into the crowd, this time killing Mr. Tall, a bystander.

Sutton was arrested five days later in Eau Claire, Wis., and extradited to Ohio.

Asked if he would like to say anything, Sutton did not explain his actions but said he was sorry.

“I apologize to my family and send my condolences out to Torian’s family,” he said.

Sandra Barringer, Mr.  Tall's mother, stood next to victim’s advocate Vera Sanders as she read Ms. Barringer’s statement to the court. She said her son was her best friend who she counted on for anything and everything.

“He was the one who made me laugh when I was feeling down,” Ms. Sanders read. “He doctored me back to health after my heart attack. He was a motivator.”

She said Sutton had shown no remorse for taking her son’s life.

“I want you to know that I don’t hate [Sutton]. I feel sorry for him,” she said. “Not only has he caused pain to my family but to his as well. Not only have I lost my son, but his mother has lost hers also.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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