Deerfield Village shooter sentenced to minimum of 10 years


Kenneth Thomas sentenced in a hearing held on Zoom and streamed on YouTube Monday. 

Detroit resident Kenneth Thomas was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison and ordered to pay over $7,500 in restitutions for his role in the April 24, 2021 shooting at Deerfield Village Apartments in which he shot CMU students Jonathan Keller and Tyler Bunting. 

The shooting occurred after a fight broke out at a Deerfield Village apartment. Thomas left the party, retrieved a firearm and fired into the building. Both Keller and Bunting suffered gunshot wounds. 

Thomas received a minimum of eight years (maximum of 20) for shooting a firearm into a building causing serious injury and two years for using a firearm while committing a felony. The two sentences will be served consecutively. He received 349 days credited to his sentence, as he has been incarcerated since April 27, 2021

Thomas pleaded guilty in February to one count felony firearm and one count of firing a weapon at a building causing serious harm. On Monday, he was officially sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison with a maximum of 22 years. 

Isabella County Trial Court Judge Eric Janes called the shooting, "a senseless act." 

"It's a wonder that no one was killed," Janes said. 

Keller made an impact statement at the sentencing, where he recalled his injuries and the effect the incident had on both his academic and athletic career. Bunting was not present for the hearing. 

As a junior quarterback on the football team, Keller was unable to suit up for the Chippewas in 2021. He suffered damage to his pulmonary artery, and both of his lungs collapsed. It is unclear what Bunting's injuries were, though he was considered in stable condition at the time of the shooting. 

Keller addressed Thomas directly during his statement. 

"I think me and you both, as young men, have surely been through a lot and I just want to give perspective on the whole situation as the victim," Keller said. "This road has not been easy. There's been a lot of struggle and hard work just being able to get myself back to this point. From not even being able to really write on paper very good, to having a huge hole in my athletic career, having to take extra classes to try to still graduate this semester. From all the mental issues that I have had to overcome and still overcoming to this day, I can really say that I am truly blessed as an individual." 

Looking back on the last year, Keller said he has felt empathy for what his family was going through at the time. 

"One of the hardest parts about all this was watching my family and all the pain that this has put on them and my friends as well," Keller said. "I just can't imagine the feeling for my mother, who I'm her only child, and what she was going through in that moment when everything happened." 

Otis Culpepper, Thomas' attorney, said Thomas was "very apologetic" for the incident. He does not believe Thomas would have made this decision if it was under "ordinary circumstances". 

"I've talked to him many times over the past months and... I believe he's truly a good kid," Culpepper said. "I'm hoping that he, when the time is over, can get back to his life that he's going to miss." 

Despite his difficulties, Keller said he does not hold any grudge against Thomas. Instead, he hopes that this situation has taught him a lesson. 

"All of this has taught me something... I think that we don't realize how our actions or words can affect other people, and there's a time where what we do or say can leave a lasting effect," Keller said. "I think that we need to be able to think about others before we make a decision. That decision that was made that night, not only changed your life, but changed mine as well."