Two people were shot — and another nearly shot — within 2½ hours on the same day last July in Akron.

The trio of shootings were among a string of gun violence on Akron streets around the Fourth of July, but police say these were unique.

Detectives say the two brothers arrested for the three shootings were on a mission to kill — and who didn’t matter.

“We could not find any definite connection to them,” said Lt. Dave Whiddon. “It was random.”

Donyea Dorune Tyus, 30, and his younger brother, Orlando Pedro Tyus, 28, will go on trial Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Court. They face eight charges, including two counts each of aggravated murder.

Cheyenne Jean Renee James, 21, the brothers’ alleged accomplice, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to one count of felonious assault. She is expected to testify against the Tyus brothers and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 5 — well after their trial concludes.

The brothers claim they are innocent of the July 7 shootings.

“He has maintained his innocence since the beginning,” said Dave Lombardi, who is representing Orlando Tyus with attorney Joe Gorman. “We expect to fight hard for our client.”

 

Slew of shootings

The number of shootings and gun-related incidents in Akron has increased dramatically in the past few years — and the city saw a bigger spike than usual last year around the Fourth of July.

Six people were killed in less than two weeks, with the victims including a 15-year-old boy. This prompted city, police and religious leaders to ask for prayers for peace and call for help from the public in arresting those responsible.

“There’s a brazenness that didn’t occur before,” Chief Kenneth Ball said during a press conference at the time. “We are not going to tolerate the kind of victimization this is creating.”

The Tyus brothers are accused in three early morning shootings on July 7 that started in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood and moved south. Police reports show:

• Bonn Rassavong, a 46-year-old Asian man from Coventry Township, was shot and killed at 3:39 a.m. on Schiller Avenue in North Hill as he walked to his car. He was shot in the head and found lying in the street.

• Robert McCall, a 58-year-old African American man from Akron, was shot and killed between 4:30 and 5:51 a.m. in a parking lot on South Arlington Street. He had a gunshot wound to the head.

• A 51-year-old white woman was nearly shot at 5 a.m. at Sixth Avenue and Minordy Place.

She told police two black men and a white woman called for her to come down an alley. When she walked into the alley, she said the woman pulled out a gun. She said she heard the gun click, but the magazine fell out.

She said she tried to run when the woman tackled her. After a short altercation, she said she escaped.

Detectives eventually tied the three shootings together but weren’t able to find a motive. This is unusual because most shootings involve people who either know each other or strangers who get into an altercation, such as during a home invasion or bar brawl.

“This wasn’t a fight,” Whiddon said of the Tyus shootings. “No connection like that — at all.”

 

Attempt to sever

The attorneys for Orlando Tyus requested to have him and Donyea tried separately, but were unsuccessful.

Lombardi and Gorman said Donyea allegedly made incriminating statements to a jail inmate and a friend of Cheyenne James with whom James allegedly discussed the shootings. If these people are called as witnesses in the trial, the attorneys said, Orlando won’t be able to cross-examine Donyea about what he is accused of saying.

Judge Alison McCarty, however, allowed the brothers to jointly stand trial. The trial is expected to last a week or possibly into a second week.

Prosecutors were unwilling to answer questions about the Tyus case until the trial is concluded.

The attorneys for the brothers also declined to discuss much about the case before the trial.

“At this point, they are charged with serious offenses,” said Jeff James, who is representing Donyea Tyus with attorney Mike George. “It is their position they did not do this and other people are pointing the finger at them. That is the position that will go forward at trial.”

Nathan Ray, James’ attorney, also declined comment until after her sentencing.

McCarty approved a request from the Tyus brothers’ attorneys to hire a digital expert to examine cellphone records used by detectives to determine the whereabouts of the brothers.

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.