The college freshman accused of shooting four students, killing one and wounding three, at an Arizona university on Friday has always had a love for guns, but was also the peace-maker, stunned friends told INSIDE EDITION.
Steven Jones, 18, a freshman at Northern Arizona University, was charged with one count of first degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault after he allegedly pulled out a handgun during a confrontation early on Friday. He shot and killed fellow student Colin Brough and wounded Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nicholas Piring at about 1:20 a.m. local time, officials said.
Rest in Peace Colin Brough, you will be missed by so many of us. Love you for ever pic.twitter.com/J87Lr3yLP8— Corissa (@Cor_Coe) October 9, 2015
The news shocked those who knew Jones, whom they described as safety conscious and law abiding.
“Steven has always been kind of supportive of the idea that guns are not toys and guns should be kept locked and safe,” Stephan Romanovsky, 19, who knew Jones from home, told INSIDE EDITION.
Jones, who was majoring in mechanical engineering, grew up with guns and did not take the responsibility of owning one lightly, Romanovsky said.
“He never played with a gun. He did keep the gun in his car locked inside his glove box. It was always locked,” he said.
Having a firearm nearby was important to his friend, Romanovsky said.
“My understanding was that Steven did not feel comfortable going to college without his gun,” he said. “It was Steven’s personal protection."
But he added: “I’ve been with Steven in confrontations, where people start (fights). Steven never went out of his way to aggravate the situation, would never move toward the weapon.”
But prosecutors argued that Jones went out of his way to bring the gun into the confrontation, saying during Jones’ arraignment that he left the fight, retrieved a .45-caliber handgun and opened fire from a distance, according to KPHO.
Prosecutors claimed there was no evidence of self defense, KPHO reported.
Moriah Wester, 19, said she had last spoken with Jones about an hour before the shooting. She told INSIDE EDITION she had been communicating with him by text and SnapChat on and off throughout the night.
“He was just studying for a test,” Wester said. “He was completely sober, he was happy, running around taking photos and trying to get away from studying. He’s been doing really well; doing well in his classes, he’s been functioning perfectly fine.”
Both Wester and Romanovsky said that Jones was pledging the school’s fraternity chapter of Sigma Chi. The fraternity acknowledged Jones was involved in the NAU chapter's pledge program but that he has now been removed.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the terrible event that occurred on the campus of Northern Arizona University overnight involving an individual seeking membership in our organization,” Sigma Chi Fraternity said in a statement.
“First and foremost, our hearts and prayers are with the family and friends of the individual killed and those who were injured, as well as the greater Northern Arizona University community. There are no words to express the full gravity of the condolences we have for the victims of this terrible tragedy.
“While this incident was in no way associated with any chapter event, we immediately removed Steven Jones from the chapter’s pledge program after his arrest and suspended the operations of the chapter while we conduct a thorough investigation into the incident,” the statement read. “We are also fully cooperating with Northern Arizona University Police and all other appropriate authorities that are investigating this matter.”
His friends said they would never have predicted this would happen.
“Nothing seemed to be up; he had only been talking about how much fun he’s been having at college,” Romanovsky said, noting how upsetting it was to see his friend compared to alleged Oregon mass shooter Chris Harper-Mercer.
“It’s not fair. Not at all. It’s like comparing apples to oranges… Someone would have to pay me money to have me believe Steven premeditated this,” he said.
“I’m 100 percent sure Steven didn’t sit in his dorm room and think about killing somebody,” he continued.
Jones was held on $2 million bond.
“I just would never have expected him to do this, to shoot a human being,” Wester said. Romanovsky agreed.
“Goddamn it Steven,” he said, “this is why we don’t own guns.”