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Utah man shot to death at Colorado campsite, suspect arrested

Published August 20, 2012 9:09 pm

Crime • Victim was a Woods Cross High grad, was studying philosophy at Fort Lewis College.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Utah native killed while camping in southwest Colorado was shot after he invited a stranger to share his campfire, according to a friend of the victim.

David Alan Jones, 26, was a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. He was shot to death Saturday at a campsite near Henderson Lake in the San Juan National Forest, police said.

"They just kind of sat around the fire, and said 'Come hang out with us.' That's what you do when you're camping," said friend and fellow Durango resident Jeff Ervin. Then, the alleged shooter, "just started acting crazy."

The stranger complained that other nearby campers were too loud, pulled out a gun and shot into the air, according to Ervin, who learned what happened from Jones' roommate and fellow camper. The two friends tried to calm the man, but he turned the gun on them, fatally shooting Jones.

The shooter ran, but was caught and disarmed by a camper from the group he had accused of being too loud.

Brenden Dow Ashburn, 37, a longtime Durango resident, was arrested on suspicion of murder.

La Plata County sheriff's office spokesman Dan Bender confirmed to the Denver Post that the two men were not camping together and didn't know each other.

"There are multiple campsites in the area, and they were in separate campsites," Bender said. "It appears to have been unprovoked."

The report of the shooting came in about 2 a.m., and Jones was dead by the time deputies arrived, he said. A handgun believed to have been used in the crime was recovered by deputies, Bender said.

Bender did not say how many times Jones had been shot.

Jones and his roommate were on one of their last camping trips together before the school year began, Ervin said. Jones was a philosophy and accounting double major who worked two jobs to support himself, one as an on-campus lab technician and the other at a pizza restaurant, and didn't have much time for camping during the school year.

Jones graduated from Wood Cross High School in 2004. He was the first in his family to go to college, Ervin said.

"He was the most harmless, easy-going, fun guy ... passionate about the outdoors and music," Ervin said. "This is not something that happens, it is not something you need to fear. It's just one of those random and senseless things."

A spokesman for Fort Lewis College confirmed that Jones was a junior at the school.

"We have notified students and sent our condolences to friends and family," said Mitch Davis, spokesman for Fort Lewis College. "We are a smaller school, and a tight-knit community, so this news really hits hard."

— Salt Lake Tribune reporter Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com