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Suspect identified in fatal shooting at Northern Arizona University

Students embrace outside a hospital emergency room in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, after an early morning fight between two groups of college students escalated into gunfire, leaving one person dead and three others wounded, authorities said. The shooting occurred outside a dormitory near the Northern Arizona University campus.
Students embrace outside a hospital emergency room in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, after an early morning fight between two groups of college students escalated into gunfire, leaving one person dead and three others wounded, authorities said. The shooting occurred outside a dormitory near the Northern Arizona University campus. Arizona Daily Sun via AP

An 18-year-old freshman at Northern Arizona University opened fire on a group of students after a late-night conflict in a parking lot, leaving one student dead and three others injured, university officials said Friday.

The shooter, identified by campus police as Steven Jones, surrendered his handgun to campus police and was taken into custody not long after the 1:20 a.m. incident, authorities said.

“He stopped his action with his handgun and everything calmed down for a few minutes as our officers arrived,” campus police Chief Greg Fowler told reporters in Flagstaff.

The condition of the three injured students was not known, but Fowler said “it would be safe to say (they were shot) multiple times.”

University officials on Friday morning identified the slain student as freshman Colin Brough and the three wounded students as Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nicholas Piring.

“Nick Dimo Prato was hit in the neck and is currently in ICU,” his aunt, Terri Prato Gilgour, wrote on Facebook. She could not be immediately reached for comment. “Sadly, his best friend was killed in front of him.”

Prato’s Facebook profile suggests he is from Oceanside, Calif. His girlfriend, Abbey Norcutt, apparently witnessed the shooting, and was also shot at, according to her father.

“Nick ran to help his friend,” Earl Norcutt, who said he was at an emergency room in Flagstaff, wrote in a Facebook post. He and his daughter couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

 

“Shooter had apparently fallen, then turned and shot Nick as he was holding his friend. Our Abbey was holding the other, second one shot, and was calling 911 as Nick was shot. She escaped being hit by the shooter as she ran,” the post said.

Maria Gonzalez, a student at the university, told The Associated Press she heard the shots but did not initially realize it was gunfire.

“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.

“How am I supposed to feel safe where I’m learning?” she said.

The incident occurred outside Mountainview Hall dormitory, but authorities said they could not immediately say what led up to the confrontation.

“We don’t know the facts yet about what brought them together, or what caused the confrontation,” Fowler said.

Like other major Arizona campuses, Northern Arizona University does not allow students to carry guns on campus.

“Arizona law allows you to have your gun in a car in a locked compartment on campus. That’s where it has to stay. You cannot carry it around on campus,” Fowler said.

He said he did not know whether the gunman had the weapon in his possession already when the confrontation first broke out.

“I appreciate the efforts of all state and local law enforcement officials, first-responders and school administrators, and continue to pray for the recovery of the injured, as well as all those in the NAU community who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy,” U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.

“All Arizonans have the Flagstaff community in their hearts today,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said on Twitter.

The shooting comes as President Obama is scheduled to visit Roseburg, Ore., where eight students and a teacher were shot and killed last week at Umpqua Community College. The Oregon gunman committed suicide after a shootout with law enforcement, authorities said.

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