Area where NAU student was slain is party hotspot

The neighborhoods around Northern Arizona University’s north campus were mostly quiet Thursday night. Pockets of college students chatted in empty doorways and smoked on dimly lit porches on East Franklin Avenue, just down the street from a boarded-up apartment door painted with the words “R.I.P. Colin our brother.”

It was a stark contrast from a week earlier, when a party in an apartment in an area complex was interrupted by the sound of gunshots ripping through the night. The shooting left 20-year-old Colin Brough dead and his Delta Chi fraternity brothers, Nicholas Piring, Nicholas Prato and Kyle Zientek, wounded in an NAU parking lot.

To the outside world, the tragedy appeared to be another college campus shooting. But to local law enforcement, it was an extreme example of the out-of-control party scene along the so-called Franklin Corridor.

“This wasn’t your — I hate to say this — your typical school shooting,” said Walt Miller, the Flagstaff Police Department’s deputy chief. “It was a shooting that happened to happen on campus. It very easily could have happened on our side of the street.”

Although homicides are rare here, Miller said crimes ranging from underage drinking to property damage and aggravated assault have all been linked to problem parties in the campus area. And Franklin Avenue has become a party hotspot. In 2014 and 2015, Flagstaff police have documented 99 criminal offenses that specifically stemmed from parties on Franklin Avenue.

The NAU Police Department has not released its reports regarding the Oct. 9 shooting, so the circumstances that led to the deadly confrontation remain publicly unknown. There has been no information from the police or the university itself indicating why the victims fought with suspected shooter Steven Jones, 18, and his friends.

Police have not said whether alcohol or drugs were a factor or whether any of the people involved were tested for intoxicating substances. In fact, police did not receive a complaint about the party the victims were attending Oct. 9 before Brough was slain.

But the apartment complex where the deadly fight began is one of many residences on Franklin Avenue with a history of rowdy parties. The complex, whose current residents are mostly Delta Chi fraternity members, according to Miller, has received six nuisance party notifications since NAU students returned to school in August. Brough and his roommates were cited at one point.

Three of the party notifications at the apartments came on Sept. 9, a Wednesday and a school day.

Police received the first complaint about a loud party at 8:50 a.m. The officers could hear loud music coming from the complex from a block away. When they arrived, they saw 30 to 40 people in the courtyard drinking from large beer cans and playing beer pong. “We were told that it was a fraternity rush party,” said Miller.

Officers returned twice more, the third time finding about 200 people, some of whom fled or migrated into the street, where traffic had to swerve around them.