FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A murder case against a former Northern Arizona University student in a 2015 shooting that killed one person and wounded three others ended in a mistrial Tuesday after a jury deadlocked on the charges.
Steven Jones, 20, was charged with first-degree murder and lesser counts in the shooting near campus that rattled the normally serene school and forested city of Flagstaff.
The attack came days after a rampage at an Oregon community college left nine people dead and brought heightened anxiety nationwide over campus violence.
The Arizona shooting followed a drunken late-night brawl between members of two fraternities.
Jones showed no emotion when Judge Dan Slayton declared the mistrial. Jurors and lawyers for both sides declined comment as they left the courtroom.
Prosecutors now have to decide whether to try Jones again for the shooting.
Prosecutors filed a first-degree murder case against Jones, but the jury also had to weigh the possibility of second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide, in addition to assault charges related to the three students who were wounded.
The fight started after Jones and two pledges from his fraternity carried out a prank by ringing the doorbell of an apartment and running away. The prank prompted a fight between Jones and students in the apartment from a rival fraternity, and Jones got punched in the face.
Prosecutors say Jones went to his car, retrieved a .40-caliber handgun and opened fire.
Jones, a freshman in the opening weeks of his first semester, said he was acting in self-defense when he shot Colin Brough, 20, in the chest and shoulder.
Prosecutors portrayed Jones as the aggressor and said he simply could have walked away without resorting to gunfire.
Jones said he went back toward the group and fired his gun but didn’t mean to hurt anyone. He testified he fired several shots “to stop the immediate threat that was coming at me.”
Nicholas Piring, Kyle Zeintek and Nicholas Prato were wounded. None of the victims was armed.
Brough attended a high school in Annapolis, Maryland, where he played lacrosse, then graduated from a high school in Castle Rock, Colorado, in 2013.
The Coconino County Superior Court jury began its deliberations on April 25, but members were sent home the next day so Slayton could consider a defense motion for a mistrial over a portion of the prosecution’s closing argument.
After a three-day break, deliberations resumed Tuesday but jurors sent a note to Slayton saying they were deadlocked.
Slayton said he sent back a note asking: “Have you reached a verdict on any counts?”
The answer was no and the jury was instructed to review the evidence and resume deliberations until 4 p.m. They reported back to the judge then that they were still at an impasse.
“This court is therefore going to declare a mistrial in this case,” Slayton said.
If prosecutors move forward, Slayton said there will be a hearing in June. He set a tentative trial date of Aug. 1 with the expectation that it would be continued until a later date.