PHOENIX — A former friend of the alleged gunman at Northern Arizona University said the shooter was “hot-headed” and had a very tough upbringing.
“When I found out about [the shooting] happening, I wasn’t necessarily surprised,” Alex Soto said Friday.
Soto said he met the alleged shooter, Steven Jones, at a home school co-op when the pair were in high school. Soto, who is a few years older than Jones, said the alleged gunman was not someone who would initially raise eyebrows.
“When I met [Jones], he was very outgoing,” Soto said. “You could tell he was a little cocky, definitely hot-headed, polite for the most part and he would strike you as a troublemaker, but not necessarily a person of questionable character.”
Soto said Jones, who was already a “very disrespectful, rebellious teenager,” did not receive much guidance from his parents.
“Obviously that’s not an excuse to go and commit crimes, but it explains a lot as far as why he is the way he is,” Soto said.
Jones’ home life weighed heavily on him, Soto said.
“It was a tough situation because Steven has definitely led a very hard life and I know he’s been through a lot.”
As Soto came to know Jones better, he said the friendship began to fracture.
“We got along great, but the relationship turned out to be more costly than it was worth,” he said. “I just couldn’t justify keeping him around anymore.”
Before the split, Soto said he and Jones bonded over several topics, one of which was their shared interested in shooting. Soto said Jones was very safe when it came to the hobby.
“He did what people like to hear – all of his guns were in safes, he has professional training on as far as how to handle it,” he said.
Soto said there are a lot of “burned bridges” between he and Jones. The last time the pair talked on good terms was about one year ago. However, despite their falling out, he is not rushing to pass judgment on his former friend until all the details are released.
“If [Jones] was outnumbered and it didn’t look like they were going to stop, then he may have had no choice,” Soto said. “At the same time, if it was just a fistfight between guys, and he got ahead of himself, that’s a decision that can severely affect your life.”
Jones faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault. One person was killed and three others were wounded in the overnight shooting on NAU’s campus.
KTAR’s Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.