(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 Thursday 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, killing one of them. 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 last week that his night started with a fraternity party. 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 that it was 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 were in nearby dorm rooms. Some witnessed the entire shooting; some were awoken by it and then watched the scene unfold.
Jayelin Kunkle testified that approximately a minute elapsed 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 testified that during the commotion, someone was pushed; more than a minute later, she saw someone with a gun/flashlight. Then, she testified, the shots were fired.
Katarina Tatkin explained hearing some of Colin Brough’s last words: “I heard one of the victims on the ground screaming, saying that he was dying . . . it was Colin.”
Miqui Scollard was among those who helped. She testified that she ran to the scene of the shooting and used her hands to cover Nick Piring’s wounds. She didn’t know him at the time. Piring was screaming, so she tried to calm him. She thought she was going to be shot as well, she explained. Colin Brough was dying, she said, but she didn’t want to leave Nick Piring by himself.
Paloma Rochin testified that Colin Brough initiated the conflict by pushing Steven Jones. Rochin also said that after Brough and Piring were shot, nobody charged Steven Jones. From her perspective, no one jumped on Steven Jones to egg on the third and fourth shootings.
Nick Acevedo testified that Nick Prado was the one who punched “one of the guys” in the face (presumably the shooter). The person punched did not fall down. Following the punch, Acevedo couldn’t remember if anyone left the group of people arguing, but he did remember Steven Jones emerging from the dark. Jones turned on the light on his pistol and told everyone to “freeze . . . or something,” Acevedo testified. Jones was in a shooting stance, he explained. Colin Brough (who died) puts his hands up in a questioning manner, took a step forward, and then Steven Jones shot him twice. Acevedo estimates that Brough was five to ten feet away from Jones when Jones pulled the trigger. Brough went down. Nick Piring reacted. Piring got shot as well. Acevedo recalled calling the shooter a “freak” and a “psychopath,” then started caring for Colin Brough, who died.
Defense attorneys said during opening statements 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.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]