2 dead in separate US school shootings in Arizona, Texas

October 9, 2015
Two people embrace outside a Northern Arizona University student dormitory, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Flagstaff, Ariz., after an early morning confrontation between two groups of students escalated into gunfire. (AP Photo/Josh Biggs)

Two people embrace outside a Northern Arizona University student dormitory, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Flagstaff, Ariz., after an early morning confrontation between two groups of students escalated into gunfire. (AP Photo/Josh Biggs)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An overnight brawl between two groups of students escalated into violence Friday when a freshman at Northern Arizona University opened fire on four fraternity members, killing one and wounding three.

Steven Jones, an 18-year-old fraternity pledge, told police he shot the group of students only after they hit him in the face and chased him, according to court documents. He also said he tried to administer first aid to one of the victims.

Prosecutors said the suspect’s account amounted to a “self-serving” statement and alleged Jones was the aggressor.

“There is no indication of self-defense here,” Deputy County Attorney Ammon Barker said. “The defendant had retreated from the fight, he obtained a gun and then he went back into the fray.”

The shooting occurred in a parking lot just outside Mountain View Hall dormitory on the Flagstaff campus, which provides housing for many of the campus’ sororities and fraternities. The victims were all members of the Delta Chi fraternity while Jones was a pledge at Sigma Chi. It’s not clear why the fight started.

Student Colin Brough was killed, and Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nicholas Piring were wounded. The prosecutor said Brough was hit twice – in the chest and shoulder – with Jones’ .40-caliber handgun. Flagstaff Medical Center said it couldn’t release any information on conditions.

“This is not going to be a normal day at NAU,” said school President Rita Cheng. “Our hearts are heavy.”

Jones told investigators that several people approached him and two friends while they were outside a residence. A fight broke out between the two groups, and Jones said he was hit in the face. He says a group chased him to his car, where he retrieved a handgun. Two of the victims had stopped following him but turned around when Jones yelled that he had a gun, court documents said.

At one point, a group tried to subdue Jones, who fired a shot in the air. Jones said he then dropped his firearm, which had a flashlight attached to it.

Jones was booked Friday for one count of first-degree homicide and three counts of aggravated assault.

Defense attorney Burges McCowan asked Flagstaff Justice Court Judge Paul Christian to allow Jones to be released to his parents in Glendale, Arizona, saying he has no prior criminal history and is a lifelong resident of Arizona. The set bond at $2 million.

“He has no other place to go,” McCowan said.

Brough was from Castle Rock, Colorado, about 30 miles south of downtown Denver. He loved to play lacrosse and wanted to be successful so he could help other people, said his cousin, Ryan Jernegan of Woodbury, New Jersey. He also worked as a lifeguard at a Flagstaff recreation center.

“He was the happiest person that you probably would ever meet,” Jernegan said.

He worked as a cashier at the Puma outlet store in Castle Rock during the summer after graduating high school. Manager Chauncey Musser remembered him as an outgoing employee with a seemingly bottomless supply of energy.

Alex McIntosh, a friend of Zientek, said he worked part time at the High Country Conference Center while attending school full time.

“He’s very calm, very respectful, has a great manner, calm demeanor and you’d never expect him to be caught up in something like this,” McIntosh said.

The shooting set off panic at the Flagstaff campus as students heard gunshots and quickly took to social media to figure out what happened.

Student Maria Gonzalez told The Associated Press that she at first suspected firecrackers when the shooting happened.

“I was studying for an exam, so I looked out the window and see two people running, and that’s when I realized they weren’t fireworks, they were actually gunshots,” she said.

The Flagstaff shooting comes on the same day that President Barack Obama visited Roseburg, Oregon, where eight students and a teacher were shot and killed last week at Umpqua Community College.

In Texas, a student was killed and another person was wounded in a shooting outside a Texas Southern University student-housing complex on Friday. A brief panic broke out in Kentucky hours later when there were reports of shots fired on a college campus. The reports turned out to be unfounded.

Northern Arizona University is a four-year public university that has more than 25,000 total undergraduate students at the campus in Flagstaff, a city about two hours north of Phoenix that is surrounded by mountains and ponderosa pines. The city of 70,000 people has a reputation for being a safe place and typically records only one murder per year.

“It’s crazy. You don’t think this stuff happens. When I think of Flagstaff, I think safety,” said freshman Cameron Sands, who had pledged at a fraternity and was supposed to move into Mountain View Hall on Friday.


HOUSTON (AP) — A student was killed and another person was wounded in a shooting outside a Texas Southern University student-housing complex on Friday, and police detained at least two people for questioning, authorities said.

The university quickly went on lockdown after the shooting was reported around 11:30 a.m. in a parking lot at the University Courtyard Apartments, which is on the edge of the Houston campus. Students and teachers were told to stay inside until the lockdown was lifted Friday afternoon, after two men were detained, but police said no charges have been filed.

University President John Rudley said the student who was killed was a freshman, but that his name and age haven’t been released. The second victim, whose name also hasn’t been released, was shot twice and is hospitalized in stable condition, Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said.

Silva said investigators were still searching for a motive, but that police weren’t treating it as an “active shooter” investigation. The incident occurred just hours after another shooting near the same housing complex, though it’s unclear whether the shootings were related.

“I’m most definitely concerned. I did plan on moving here,” said Brittney Solomon, a 19-year-old psychology student from Houston. “It’s really nerve-racking feeling that a person here could have a gun.”

Rudley urged the school’s roughly 9,700 students to be more vigilant, reminding them that the campus was in a large city. He also criticized what he said was a culture among some students who believe they shouldn’t snitch on each other.

“We’re in the inner city. Crime is all around us,” he said.

Classes were cancelled following the lockdown Friday. Rudley said classes will resume on a normal schedule Monday.

The university said in a statement that an earlier shooting occurred early Friday morning, and that the school was increasing police presence on campus. Police said one person was treated and released for a minor wound, but it’s unclear if the two incidents were linked.

“My main concern is what they’re going to do now,” Daijsa Fowls, a 19-year-old pharmacy student from Houston, said as she stood outside the gate to the housing complex. “There’s no enforcement. There’s no way that outsiders should be allowed in a person’s dorm room. I’m supposed to be moving on campus and it shakes me up.”

Fowls noted that she had a 3-year-old son, and said she wouldn’t feel safe walking with him on campus. She said she planned to move into one of the nearby housing units but is now considering transferring to another school.

“A bullet has no name,” she said. “It could hit anybody.”

The incidents follow a fatal shooting earlier Friday at Northern Arizona University, where an overnight confrontation between students escalated into gunfire that killed one person and wounded three others. Last week, eight students and a teacher were fatally shot at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The gunman in the Oregon shooting also wounded nine people before turning the gun on himself.

“Like President Obama says, this is getting to be too regular,” Rudley said.