State argues against dismissal of indictment in NAU shootingPosted: Updated:
A man charged in the fatal shooting of a Northern Arizona University student had superficial injuries and downplayed the distance he traveled before firing the first of 10 shots following a largely verbal fight last October, prosecutors said in urging a judge to reject a bid to dismiss the indictment.
Steven Jones is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 9 death of Colin Brough on the Flagstaff campus and six counts of aggravated assault. Three other NAU students were injured in the shooting, one of whom was in critical condition for days and lost a kidney.
Jones claims he feared for his life after being punched in the face and verbally threatened, so he ran to his car believing he was being chased to retrieve a .40-caliber handgun affixed with a flashlight, according to police reports. Jones' attorneys have said that Brough and Nicholas Piring charged at Jones after he announced he had a gun, trying to bolster arguments that his life was in imminent danger.
Measurements by police, however, show the distance between Jones' car and Brough's body was at least 90 feet, prosecutors wrote in documents released this week. That demonstrates that Jones pursued the first two victims, the state said. Piring, who was unarmed, said in police interviews that he jumped over a hedge toward Jones, which Jones saw as a threat but prosecutors said was an attempt to render aid to Brough.
Jones shot Nicholas Prato in the neck and Kyle Zientek twice in the back after a group of people tackled Jones trying to disarm him, authorities said.
Prosecutors painted Jones as a loose cannon and a dangerous man whose statements to police were self-serving and contradicted by other evidence. Jones was not responding to deadly force but seeking to mend his "hurt feelings" and "wounded pride," prosecutors said.
"The facts prove that defendant was not forced into a situation in which he had to use his gun," prosecutor Bryan Shea said. "Rather, defendant saw an opportunity to use his gun, and he took it."
Jones' attorneys say prosecutors misrepresented statements from victims to the grand jury, minimized Jones' injuries and failed to mention that one witness said he thought Brough punched Jones in the face, although that hasn't been verified.
"This biased presentation to the grand jury violated defendant's right to due process," said one of Jones' attorneys, Joshua Davidson.
Prosecutors accused defense attorneys of cherry-picking statements and said scrapes on Jones' body, a split lip and red marks were superficial at best. They said the evidence was presented fairly and impartially to grand jurors, including an explanation of self-defense and information that was favorable to Jones.
Prosecutors asked a judge to reject bids by the defense to send the case back to the grand jury and to release Jones from the Coconino County jail where he's being held on $2 million bond.
Jones' attorneys say the bail is excessive and want a judge to allow Jones to live with his parents in Maricopa County pending trial. They said Jones is not a flight risk, has no criminal history and is eager to clear his name.
The judge will hear arguments on the defense motions Feb. 19.
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