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What may have ended in a fist-fight instead resulted in three people shot, one fatally, because Granvel Thomas had - and used - a gun, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge said yesterday.
Judge Stacy Cook sentenced the 22-year-old Toledo man to 18 years in prison for the Dec. 29 shooting on the crowded dance floor of a North Toledo bar.
He was ordered to serve nine years for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Raymond Garth, 22, and three years each for two counts of felonious assault, the result of two other bar patrons being shot.
A three-year gun specification also was added to the sentence.
"There's no way I can excuse that you had a weapon," Judge Cook said before sentencing. "Whether or not someone insulted you or showed you disrespect your actions passed far beyond what that night should have become."
Authorities said an altercation between Thomas and Garth began just after 1 a.m. at Hughley's Lounge, 902 Locust St. The incident ended there until about an hour later when another fight broke out between the two men, authorities said.
Garth struck Thomas and, as he fell back, he pulled out a gun and shot in Garth's direction. Garth was shot twice. He died as a result of losing a significant amount of blood.
County Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey Lingo said the incident was a situation where "two young men let their egos get in the way."
He added that Thomas' actions not only affected Garth but two other victims who were each shot in the leg although not involved in the fight.
William Harper, 22, was treated at Toledo Hospital and was released several hours later. Katherine Hayes, 22, was treated at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
A few months later in an unrelated incident, Ms. Hayes was stabbed in the chest by her grandmother. Mildred McNair, 58, pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced Thursday by Judge Charles Doneghy to five years probation.
The shooting victims were not in court yesterday.
Thomas apologized to both his and Garth's family, but insisted that he was fearful that night that Garth had a gun. He said he tried to walk away several times but was unable.
"I know violence isn't the answer, but it got out of control," he said.
Attorney Don Cameron said the case did have "echoes" of self-defense, although he acknowledged that it was not presented as a defense in the case. He said that the case was truly voluntary manslaughter in that there was provocation.
Thomas originally was charged with murder but pleaded no contest June 24 to the voluntary manslaughter charge after the indictment was amended.
Family for both Thomas and Garth filled the small courtroom yesterday.
Gussie Garth, the victim's aunt, said her nephew's death was a "senseless loss" that resulted in two lives being lost.
She said Thomas threw away his life when he fired the gun over nothing more than "stupidity."
She said because of Thomas' actions, her nephew will never find out what life had to offer.
The defendant's aunt, Tabatha Thomas, said after the sentencing that her nephew was smart and seemed to be headed in the right direction.
She said the fight between the two men was longer than what authorities said and that Garth was "always beating him up."
Her deepest sadness, she added, was that it happened. "I'm so sorry this happened."
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