Former Arizona student called aggressor in deadly fight

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2017 2:20 PM

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A prosecutor on Tuesday portrayed a former Northern Arizona University student as a killer who carried out "his own deranged sense of justice" when he opened fire on a group of people during a drunken fight near the campus.

The account came during closing arguments in the murder trial of 20-year-old Steven Jones, who killed one student and wounded three others in what he said was self-defense after being punched in the face just a few weeks into his freshman year in October 2015.

The incident in Flagstaff came at a time of heightened anxiety over school shootings, occurring just days after a gunman killed nine people in a writing class at a community college in Oregon.

The Arizona incident started as a late-night drunken brawl among fraternity members and ended in gunfire after Jones went to his car, retrieved a gun and opened fire as the fight continued, authorities say.

"The defendant didn't just retaliate with his fists. He escalated it, and he came back with a gun. He wanted to teach someone a lesson," prosecutor Ammon Barker said. "Again, this is not self-defense."

Barker showed the jury autopsy photos of Colin Brough, who was killed, in arguing that Jones should be found guilty of murder.

Prosecutors say Jones wasn't justified in using lethal force and portrayed him as the aggressor. They said he could have walked away from the fight without resorting to gunfire.

"What he did afterwards has nothing to do with self-defense and has everything to do with retaliation," Barker said. "He wanted to be the judge, jury and executioner."

Jones' lawyers were set to make their closing argument later in the day.

Jones said he was accosted by a drunken group of strangers, punched in the face and chased by some members of the group, prompting him to run to his vehicle and get a .40-caliber handgun.

Jones said he went back toward the group and fired his gun but didn't mean to hurt anyone. He testified he fired several shots "to stop the immediate threat that was coming at me."

The shooting also wounded Nicholas Piring, Nicholas Prato and Kyle Zeintek. None of the victims was armed.

Zientek, who lost a kidney and part of his intestine due to his injuries, had testified that he tried to run away moments before he was shot twice in the back.

Prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty. A first-degree murder conviction carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.