LISBON — The shooting death of a 20-year-old Columbiana man after an exchange of gunfire with the host of a party on state Route 154 early Sunday remains under investigation with no charges filed.
Tyler Unkefer, of 1864 Lower Elkton Road, suffered one shot to the chest, according to Columbiana County Coroner Dr. William Graham Jr., with a gunshot wound the likely cause of death and homicide the likely manner of death, although no official ruling has been made at this point.
Graham said he won’t issue a final ruling until he receives the completed autopsy report, including toxicology test results, in two to four months.
County Prosecutor Robert Herron identified Jarrod Richter, 29, of state Route 154, Lisbon, as the property owner who exchanged gunfire with the victim.
According to Herron, a birthday party for a couple of guests started Saturday afternoon and continued into the wee hours of Sunday morning at the Richter property, with Unkefer in attendance.
After an altercation, he allegedly left the party and sometime later returned, with the gunfire ensuing.
After the shooting, Unkefer reportedly drove his car a short distance, but then stopped off of the road at a cemetery which Sheriff David Smith said was located across from Neville’s Auto Body.
Both Smith and Herron said others were with the victim in the vehicle and a call for help was made. The Sheriff’s Office received a phone call at 4:52 a.m. Sunday about a shooting at a residence in Elkrun Township, with deputies locating the victim in a vehicle a short distance from the residence.
Smith said they believed the shooting occurred sometime between 4 and 4:30 a.m. Sunday. About an hour or two hours earlier, he said the altercation occurred over a girl at the party. He explained that the victim, Unkefer, was taking a picture of the girl with a cell phone and the girl was married to another party-goer , who apparently wasn’t happy about the picture being taken. Unkefer was allegedly kicked out of the party and left.
Neither Smith nor Herron would reveal any details specific to the shooting, including the type of weapons used or the circumstances surrounding the event. Smith said they’re still interviewing witnesses or potential witnesses to the incident, with the number of people at the party estimated anywhere from 20 to 50 people. When the shooting started, he and Herron said the people scattered, so investigators are still trying to find witnesses.
Of the people questioned, Smith said the stories have been consistent, but they’re trying to talk to as many people as possible to see if there are any different stories from what they’ve heard. Herron said this will be a case that’s probably handled through the county grand jury, subject to what investigators discover.
Both he and Smith said the case was being handled as a fatal shooting, with no ruling of murder or homicide at this point. He noted there was evidence of consumption of both alcohol and marijuana, with some party-goers possibly reluctant to come forward because they were underage.
If they come forward now and cooperate, he said they won’t be charged with anything, but if investigators have to come looking for them, charges for the underage consumption may be filed.
“You mix alcohol with firearems, you’re going to have a bad result,” Smith said, calling the shooting an unfortunate incident with an avoidable set of circumstances.
“This is really a graphic example of how when you’re attending a party where there’s a lot of alcohol being consumed and probably other substances being consumed how things can get out of hand very quickly,” Herron said.
For young people, he said “it’s really important for them to be vigilant on where they’re going and the type of environment they’re placing themselves in.”
At this party, he said it appeared there were a number of people there who didn’t know each other and there was a lot of drinking.
He found it particularly poignant that he and others at the scene spent their Father’s Day investigating the aftermath of a party which left one young man dead.
“We all have kids,” Herron said, adding it shows how easily something can happen.
He stressed that it’s “critical that people use good judgment about the environment to which they project themselves, especially in a society where people are going armed.”
Smith said he spoke to the father of the victim and he’s “emotionally drained and upset.”
Anyone who attended the party or saw anything related to the shooting should call the Sheriff’s Office at 330-424-7255.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at mgreier<\@>salemnews.net