Alleged shooter says victim threw a purse at him

Editor’s note: An original version of this story incorrectly stated that the filming location was at Scene75.

Seconds after several shots were fired inside the Tuttle Crossing mall on Sunday afternoon, 911 calls began pouring in to dispatchers.

One of these callers identified himself as the shooter.

“A man attacked me with his purse and I shot,” said the man, later identified as Tyrone Gray Jr., 24, of Mansfield. “I shot him.”

Gray told dispatchers he was returning to his vehicle, parked outside the mall’s JCPenney store, although the dispatcher repeatedly told him to stop moving around the mall as he was creating further panic and getting endangered with the weapon on him.

Gray said the gun he used was in his pocket and described his clothes to the dispatcher.

When the dispatcher asked where the man Gray had shot was, Gray’s response was simple.

“He was lying on the ground.

That man, Dontarious Sylvester, 25, also from Mansfield, died at the scene.

“He just threw a purse at me, punched me in the face,” Gray said later in the 911 call that lasted nearly 8½ minutes. “He hit me with a purse.”

Gray said Sylvester was unarmed, but “attacked me with a purse.”

At some point during the call, a woman Gray identified as his girlfriend, phoned and told dispatchers they were in a white Dodge and the gun was in the back of the trunk. .

Moments later, Gray was arrested by Columbus police without incident. He was charged with murder.

According to Franklin County Municipal Court records, Judge Eileen Paley gave Gray $50,000 bond in an initial hearing Monday morning. Gray posted 10% of that bond, or $5,000, through a surety company and was released from the Franklin County Jail, court records show.

The arrest ended a chaotic situation inside the mall that began around 2:40 p.m. Sunday.

The crowded mall presents a unique chaos

Columbus Police Sgt. Joe Albert said there were several reports of gunshots at this time at the Sole Stop shoe store in the mall near Dublin. A total of 41 911 calls were made from inside the mall.

Violence in shopping malls:Mall shootings are rare, and most calls at Columbus’ three largest malls are unrelated to crime

The shooting was isolated and was not an active shooter targeting random people, Albert said.

“However, obviously in a crowded mall like this, people hear gunshots and automatically assume we have an active shooter situation,” Albert said, describing the mall as a “chaotic scene.”

Albert noted that there were numerous witnesses and access to surveillance footage, and asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact Columbus police.

According to court records, Sylvester, who is also from the Mansfield area, and Gray got into an argument inside the store and Sylvester hit Gray with a purse. According to court records, video from the store showed Gray then pulling out a gun and shooting Sylvester several times before leaving the store.

James Berry, 30, of Cincinnati, said he was buying shoes at Sole Stop when he heard an argument, looked up and saw a man shoot someone in the head.

“And everybody’s running, everybody’s jostling,” Berry said.

According to a social media post from Sole Stop, the store will be closed until at least June 20. A message was left to the shopping center management company on Monday.

Shops were locked and cleared by police after the shooting

Albert said Columbus police methodically emptied stores during the lockdown. Most stores were closed the day after the shooting.

Alex Sekeres, 22, who works in Zumiez at the mall, said he heard gunshots and saw people running. He and other store employees closed the door and waited with others for the green light from the police. Zumiez closed for the day, he said.

Berry said he was most worried about the kids at the mall. Albert said there were children in the area when the incident happened.

Shops closed at the Tuttle Crossing shopping center after a person was shot and killed at the Sole Stop shoe store on Sunday.

Albert asked those who witnessed the shooting to take care of their sanity.

“If you need to talk to someone, you know, talk to a mental health professional if you’re going through things that you’ve just been traumatized by a major incident,” Albert said.

On Monday, the mall opened normally; however, some changes were noticeable. The parking lots had few cars, most of them piled up near the entrances.

Inside, less than a dozen people were seen downstairs, including Pam Hunter, who lives near Marble Cliff and was walking for exercise.

“It seems to be happening everywhere,” she said of the gun violence. “So many people with guns, and when they get mad that’s the first thing they think of. It’s such a shame.”

Hunter, 62, said many stores that would usually be open were closed on Monday.

“I almost wish they would start using metal detectors at the entrances. It’s ridiculous to walk into the mall with a gun.”

Previous mall shootings at Polaris Fashion Place

Sunday’s shooting was not the first shooting at a Greater Columbus mall in years. In 2021, there were two shoots in one month at Polaris Fashion Place.

The first was on March 3, when Anthony Deshawn Truss Jr., 21, of Reynoldsburg, and Levon Sommerville, 25, of the northeast side, opened fire inside the mall during a domestic incident reported.

Truss was sentenced to 11 to 13 years in prison. Sommerville was also sentenced to 13 to 17 years in prison.

The second was on March 15, when, according to court records, Arshad J. Lawson fired multiple shots around 3:15 p.m. into a first-floor atrium inside the mall during a confrontation between two youth groups, police said. .

One of the bullets grazed the arm of a male victim, but did not penetrate his skin, according to the complaint. Officials said at the time that there were at least two expected victims – a 17-year-old man and an unidentified man.

Lawson, a 21-year-old former East Side man, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in connection with the shooting.

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@bethany_bruner

Cole Behrens is a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @Colebehr_report.

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