Self-defense claim could impact NAU shooting case

Northern Arizona University students and staff went into high alert after receiving notice there was an active shooting on campus Oct. 9, 2015. The shooting took place near the dormitories and had resulted in one death and three injuries. 20-year-old Colin Brough died in the shooting which also wounded Nicholas Piring, Nicholas Prato and Kyle Zientek, according to Arizona Daily Sun.

Upon arrival to the scene, Northern Arizona University police came into contact with the suspect, 18-year-old Steven Jones who surrendered peacefully. Initial statements given to police by Jones suggests that he and his friends had been attacked and were chased by several people prior to the shooting, according to ABC15.

According to reports Steven Jones confessed to being the shooter and was arrested. One week later he was indicted on one count of first-degree murder and six counts of aggravated assault and plead not guilty, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

The defense attorneys for Steven Jones have been claiming self-defense from the beginning stages of this case and asked on Jan. 14. for charges to be dropped against their client, according to, Arizona Daily Sun.

 Details they say give credence to their claims include the results that show Jones was sober during this altercation and all four victims were intoxicated on some degree. Toxicology reports reveal that all four victims, including the deceased Colin Brough, were under the influence of alcohol and had trace evidence of drugs, according to KTAR.

Are these facts alone enough to acquit someone of murder charges? It should take far more in my opinion.

I believe that this does in fact paint Jones as someone who was sober, but it does not automatically justify his actions, whatever pre-meditated thought we may have about someone who is under the influence of alcohol.

Some experts believe that these toxicology results show that the defense attorneys have a case for self-defense, if the defense can indeed prove that impairment has impacted the victim’s statements on the events that took place the night of the shooting, ABC15 reports.

KTAR reported Feb. 19 that Steven Jones will remain jailed, but a judge left open the possibility for home confinement.

“If they can prove it I can understand,” said GCC student Shannon Weary on the possible release on grounds of self-defense.”

“I have a firearm and if I were in the same situation, and it can be proven, I would want to be released,” said Weary.

Which begs the other question, should someone charged with murder be eligible for home confinement if they are claiming self-defense?

There is no denying that self-defense is something that can be justified, but in this case it isn’t clear as day.

Arizona legislature defines self-defense as “a person in justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.”

In the evidence and statements available to the public currently, it suggests that Jones went to retrieve his weapon after the initial altercation which resulted in threats against his life and after feeling threatened when Brough and his friends made advancements, according to ABC15.

Arizona legislature goes on to state “The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified: In response to verbal provocation alone; or If the person provoked the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless: (a) The person withdraws from the encounter or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely withdraw from the encounter; and (b) The other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against the person.”

Considering Jones was not intoxicated and was therefore in a clear state of mind, it is in my opinion that he continued to elevate the altercation which resulted in him using his firearm and that this case isn’t a simple claim of self-defense.

 According to ABC15, Jones yelled out loud that he had a firearm and It wasn’t until this point that Brough and friends turned around towards Jones again.

Shortly after the shooting began.

“Let’s pretend it’s us. If I see you guys are drunk and I’m not drunk, we have words, and I go back to my car, I’m going back to my car to leave not to stay in this situation for it to go from here to there, where I have to shoot somebody. If he really felt threatened, he could have called the police.” Shannon Weary said.

And she’s right in my opinion.

If you know you’re in a situation where a heated argument has already taken place and you have the means to deescalate, why not do it?

Jones was both sober and in a clear state of mind to get into his car and leave the parking lot. One would stop and think that these guys who are drunk are showing the type of behavior they are because of their inebriated state.

In hindsight, the fact remains that it is possible for the defense to claim that this same inebriated state may have caused the victims to act in a threatening and violent manner. But it will and should take more than just this.

This will be the defense attorneys job as they continue to press for self-defense, which would turn this case towards a different direction.

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