DEARBORN, Mich. – Timothy Eubanks was sentenced Friday to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty last year to six counts of second-degree child abuse in connection with the shooting of two 3-year-old children at an unlicensed daycare in Dearborn.
Eubanks and his wife, Samantha Eubanks, both were charged after the toddler was shot Sept. 27, 2017 at their home on Harding Street. The Dearborn Police Department said the toddler found the weapon inside the house and fired it. Prosecutors say the shooter was the Eubanks' 3-year-old son.
Timothy Eubanks was headed for trial but pleaded guilty to six counts instead.
Samantha Eubanks was charged with 12 counts of second-degree child abuse and two counts of felony firearms violations. The felony firearms charges were dropped but then reinstated. It's not known when she could head to trial or if she also will reach a plea deal.
Prosecutors allege the Eubanks' knowingly left two handguns unsecured in an upstairs bedroom while running an unlicensed daycare. At the time of the shooting, Samantha Eubanks was watching six children: three 3-year-olds, two 1-year-olds and a 4-month-old.
The Eubanks' three older children were at school at the time of the shooting. All of their six children were removed from the home and placed with relatives.
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway said she does not want to send Eubanks to prison because she would rather have him out in public informing people about household gun safety.
Eubanks was distraught during the sentencing as he sat crying and listening to the victim impact statements. He was clearly remorseful, and Hathaway took note of this. She said she knows there was nothing intentional about this tragedy, calling it a case of carelessness and negligence. Victims' families had good things to say about the Eubanks and their child care, Hathaway said, and she took that into consideration.
She decided to give Eubanks two years of probation during which he is instructed to start a national gun safety education campaign.
"I want you to develop a campaign to reach out to millions of people -- and it can be done these days -- and let them know what your carelessness, thoughtlessness and negligence caused, how widespread it is," said Hathaway. "And let me tell you, I have a strong suspicion that you, like millions of other people in this country, were thinking that having guns in your home was a way of protecting your family. And isn't it ironic that while you were trying to protect your family, you end up with your family hurt, another family hurt, and a community hurt. It's just ironic, that people think that having guns, even in their home, is a way to protect themselves and their families. The answer to that question is still out there."
The judge also instructed Eubanks to inform the public about home firearms safety courses. She wants him to start one.
"There are courses all over this country. I need you, and this community needs you, to get the word out that if they haven't already taken the home firearm safety course, that they do it and you tell them the reasons why," she said.
Eubanks will be ordered back to court on Feb. 20, 2020 for a probation review. Hathaway said they will discuss his progress and what he has done the past year to inform the public about gun safety.
Toddlers will need long-term care
Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said the two toddlers injured in the shooting were at home recovering, but would require long-term care.
"Both toddlers are recovering. They'll have long-term care required," Haddad said during a news conference about a month after the shooting. "I've been told that they're both at home at this time. This remains a complete tragedy for our entire community."
Haddad confirmed one of the children was shot in the hip. He called it a "totally" tragic event.
"The parents should make sure they are leaving their kids someplace safe," said the chief. "We just want to pull for the kids right now."
It was revealed during Timothy Eubanks' sentencing that one of the children who was shot lost one of his eyes. Victim impact statements also revealed the children who witnessed the shootings have had to undergo therapy.
Neighbor says she complained to city about children's care
Neighbor Carol Rittenbarry, who lives right next door, said she had seen the children out in the yard before.
"I've seen them out in the backyard playing in their diapers. There are five or six kids at the time out there, maybe more. A lot of times it's just her older children watching them," said Rittenbarry.
Rittenbarry said she was concerned by the children's care and complained to the city.
"We've called the city but the city won't do nothing about it," she said.
Rittenbarry said she couldn't say if she's surprised about there being loose weapons in the home.
"It's just scary," she said.