Murder trial of former NAU student gets underway

NAU shooting suspect Steven Jones (Source: Pool feed)

A jury heard opening statements Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of 20-year-old Steven Jones.

Prosecutors described the former Northern Arizona University student as a cold-blooded killer, who went to his car and grabbed his gun following an altercation with a group of fraternity brothers.

Jones shot and killed one student and injured three others.

Coconino County Attorney Ammon Barker told jurors that there was no reason for Jones to go to his car and get his gun because he could have simply called for help or driven away.

"What the defendant did was not an accident," Barker said. "It was not self-defense. It was aggravated assault and premeditated murder."

The shooting took place late at night in October of 2015 on the NAU campus.

[Special section: NAU shooting]

According to police reports, Jones and some friends were walking back from a party near campus when they got into some kind of argument with other students.

Jones claimed that he was acting in self-defense when he ran to his car to grab his gun and confront the students who were attacking Jones and his friends.

Minutes earlier, someone "snuck up" on Jones and hit him in the side of the head, Jones said.

Defense attorney Joshua Davidson told the jury that Jones' life was in danger and that he had no other option but to use deadly force.

"When you hear this case, you will find this is not about an assassin emerging from the dark on a rampage," Davidson said. "This is a case about an 18-year-old kid who was just a couple of weeks into his college career, a freshman, and he found himself in situation where he was assaulted, bullied, threatened and attacked. And he did what he had to do to protect himself."

The first witness is expected to take the stand Thursday morning, and the trial is expected to last five weeks.

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