(You can watch the trial above with legal analysis. If you’d prefer a raw feed of the trial, scroll to the bottom of the article)
Testimony continues Friday in the murder trial of Steven Jones, a then-freshman at Northern Arizona University who shot four other students after an off-campus party on October 9, 2015. Jones claims that he acted in self-defense after being chased during a brawl. Colin Brough died in the attack, and Nick Piring, Nick Prato, and Kyle Zientek were injured. Jones is facing one charge of first-degree premeditated murder and six charges of aggravated assault.
Victim Nick Piring testified Thursday that the night started with fraternity party. Approximately 20 to 25 people were present, he said, and they were drinking. He went to an area near the fraternity known as the “courtyard” when he heard a verbal argument outside. He heard his friend Colin Brough’s voice. Brough would later die.
Piring testified that the argument was verbal, with a lot of “chest puffing,” but not physical. The argument was profanity-laced, he explained to the jury, but at no point was any threat lodged about anyone being killed or hurt. He then testified to seeing what he thought was a flashlight. It was actually a tactical light attached to the top of the shooter’s weapon, he would later learn.
He testified that Colin Brough turned toward the individual with the “flashlight,” took two steps, then fell to the ground. He didn’t realize immediately that the “flashlight” was attached to a gun or that Brough had been shot. He ran to Brough’s aid, saw the “flashlight” turn to him. He was then shot.
The chain of events lasted less than a minute, he said. He never saw Brough “lunge” at the shooter, which is what the defense claims occurred.
After a pause of about 30 seconds, Piring said, several additional shots were fired.
The next three witnesses to testify Thursday were in nearby dorm rooms. Some witnessed the entire shooting; some were awoken by it and then watched the scene unfold.
Jayelin Kunkle was one of those woken by the commotion. Her dorm room was just above the shooting scene. She didn’t see the first shots. She said there was about a minute between the first burst of shots (which hit the first two victims) and then second burst (which hit the two others). She testified that the group of people standing near the shooter “stepped back a little” just before the second round of shots were fired. She described the shooter as being in “panic mode” towards the end of the events. She agreed on cross-examination by the defense that the “confrontation” was “super violent,” “terrifying,” and contained “screaming.”
Valerie Pabon, a sophomore at the time the shooting occurred, was alerted by the sound of yelling outside of her dorm room. Two groups of boys were arguing; eventually, she explained from the witness stand, they headed separate ways until one of the boys yelled something at the other group of boys. A boy from one group confronted the boy who yelled. Someone was pushed. More than a minute later, she saw someone with a gun/flashlight. Then, she testified, the shots were fired. She ran to the RA (resident advisor) for help, then returned to her room almost immediately when she couldn’t find her RA. One group of boys, presumably those who came from the fraternity, were backing up by this point, asking, “what are you doing?” Two victims were on the ground at this point. She tried calling police, but the line was busy.
Katarina Tatkin is currently a senior at NAU. She witnessed almost the entire episode. She testified that two groups of students were outside. The “groups came together,” then “all of a sudden there was a bright light,” she explained. “It all happened very quickly where the two groups convened,” she noted.
There wasn’t a physical confrontation, she testified. She saw the “flashlight” being pointed around by the shooter. She recalled hearing “dialogue” along the lines of “what are you doing, oh my gosh, what is that?” That’s when she heard a gunshot. She couldn’t remember how many bullets were fired. She was looking at the shooter when she heard the first shots. She was focused on the bright light and didn’t process that it was a gun until after the shots rang out. She couldn’t explain what the gun looked like. It hit her that it was real when she saw someone on the ground. She saw others huddled around. Yelling ensued. Then, she saw two people on the ground.
Her phone was already in her hand, she explained, so she called 911 immediately, focused on talking to the operator, and explained what the victims were wearing. While she was on the phone, there were more gunshots. She didn’t see what happened in between. There was a group huddled and more shots were fired after a short pause. After the shooting, she recalled a girl administering first aid. After the shots, she heard general panic, while the students outside said “what did you do?” “Call 911.”
Tatkin explained hearing Colin Brough’s last words: “I heard one of the victims on the ground screaming, saying that he was dying . . . it was Colin.”
Defense attorneys said during opening statements Wednesday that this was a case of self-defense. Prosecutors say it was murder, arguing that the shooter went to his car, retrieved his gun, and then returned to the scene before firing at the four students who were struck.