Joshua Stevens: Here's why DA says his killing by lieutenant, prosecutor was justified
Back in April, we told you about the Hot Sulphur Springs shooting death of Joshua Stevens at the hands of a prominent couple -- a lieutenant with the Grand County Sheriff's Office and a prosecutor for the 14th Judicial District.
Now, Jefferson County DA Pete Weir has ruled that the pair's actions were justified -- and a document announcing his decision provides much more information about the events that led to Stevens's death. Photos, video and details below.
The original releases about the killing, which took place on the night of April 1, made it seem like a home invasion during which the intruder had been shot, presumably inside the house, by one of the residents.
But the facts laid out by Weir are considerably more complicated than that. Stevens is indeed said to have gotten into the residence shared by the couple, now officially identified as Grand County Sheriff's Lieutenant John Stein and Chief Deputy District Attorney Heather Stein. However, he died outside after being shot at least once by each of the Steins.
The scene of the incident.
Theirs is not the typical house. Rather, it's the former Riverside hotel, which is described like so on the Historic Hotels of the Rockies website:
This fine small hotel is close and waiting for a new innkeeper to take good care of it and the delightful guests that stay here. The Historic Riverside Hotel, located on the banks of the Colorado River in Hot Sulphur Springs, CO, was built in 1903 to meet the lodging demands of travelers who arrived daily at the newly constructed train depot. These travelers were after the same thing in 1903 as they are today -- a relaxing soak in the adjacent hot springs, a good meal and a restful nights' sleep. The Historic Riverside -- renovated in 2008 but still possessing its authentic turn of the century charm -- provides its guests with 14 elegantly appointed, uniquely individual guest rooms, The River Room Restaurant, one of Grand County's finest and The Jayhawk Bar, an authentic 1895 Brunswick Bar.
The reference to the need of an innkeeper is a bit out of date. The Steins purchased the operation and converted it into a home they share with their four children -- three of whom were present when Stevens, a man with previous convictions for fraud and evading police in Michigan (his home state) and Florida, came barging in.
Continue for more about the death of Joshua Stevens, including photos, video and the DA's report. Weir's report states that the Steins and the three kids at home that evening were sleeping when, a little before midnight, they were awakened by determined banging on the front door.
Could Stevens, a new arrival in Hot Sulphur Springs (he's said to have been looking for a job), have thought the hotel was still in operation and wanted to rent a room for the night? No telling at this point, but his persistence appears to have been fueled by a number of substances in his system. Tests conducted during his autopsy were positive for, among other things, meth, marijuana and Oxycodone.
After hearing the noises, John grabbed his gun and went to investigate -- and when he opened the door, the report says, Stevens pushed his way in while yelling and "behaving erratically."
His actions alarmed John, especially given that his daughter was asleep on a nearby couch when Stevens entered. Heather, who'd also retrieved a gun, was able to get her and the other kids out of the room while John tried to persuade Stevens to leave -- efforts that apparently got physical, since both men sustained what are characterized as minor injuries.
Eventually, John was able to get the intruder out of the house, but that wasn't the end of the incident. Stevens reportedly walked toward a truck whose female owner was just getting out of it. This prompted John to once again engage Stevens, presumably because he saw him as a danger to the woman.
The result was a full-blown fight during which Stevens allegedly tried to get his hands on John's gun and Heather, still packing heat, attempted to wrench him off her husband by yanking him by the neck. The report says John repeatedly told Stevens to let go of the firearm, and when he failed to do so, he fired three shots.
Hearing the sounds, Heather was afraid John had been on the receiving end of the bullets. So she pulled her trigger, too.
Continue for more about the death of Joshua Stevens, including photos, video and the DA's report. This 7News report aired shortly after incident:
The Steins had good aim. All four shots hit Stevens, who died as a result.
In most instances, the question of whether the Steins should be charged for the shooting would have fallen to 14th Judicial District DA Brett Barkey. But given the focus on a member of his own prosecutorial staff, he handed off to Jeffco's Weir, whose conclusion is summarized in this paragraph:
Following review of this investigation, District Attorney Weir finds that it was not unreasonable for Lieutenant Stein and CDDA Stein to fear imminent death or serious bodily injury to themselves and their children, and to respond in the manner that they did.
As such, the document notes that since the Steins' actions meet "the legal requirements of the affirmative defense of self-defense," their "conduct did not violate any criminal statutes."
Look below to see a larger version of a Stevens booking photo, followed by the release about the shooting report.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Mike McLelland second Texas prosecutor killed in two months: Tom Clements murder link?"