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Lon Jones cleared in killing of camera-shy homeless man

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Not all self-defense killings are as dubious or controversial as the one that caused the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. That's the message Seventeenth Judicial District DA Don Quick sends in his decision letter clearing Brighton's Lon Jones, who earlier this month gunned down a homeless man who appears to have suffered from an ultimately fatal case of camera-shyness.

As outlined in the letter, on view below, reps of the Adams County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call just past 7 p.m. on April 1 in an area bordering Brighton. There, officers found Andre Manzanares dead near a silver Toyota due to three gunshots in the chest -- and Jones, 54, readily admitted to firing them. However, he said he had no choice.

Misty Apalone, Manzanares's wife, wasn't so sure. She told a detective that she and Manzanares, who'd married just days earlier, were staying in a tent in a backyard belonging to one of her new husband's pals. Over the course of the day, they'd downed two forty-ounce Cobra beers and about half a fifth of whiskey -- beverages that left them, in her words, "buzzed."

Around seven o'clock, the pair were sitting on a bench near a shed where they'd been storing some of their belongings when Apalone noticed a man later identified as Jones taking photographs. After she pointed him out to Manzanares, he got up without a word and started running toward the shutterbug. Apalone followed, but at a much slower pace, and had lost sight of them when she heard the sound of a gun firing. By the time she caught up to Manzanares, he was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood.

When speaking with the detective, Apalone wondered aloud why Jones had shot Manzanares, but she also speculated that the shooting had been in self-defense even though her husband was far from heavily armed; he carried only a combination pocket knife and a USB drive on a key chain. So what kind of threat could he be? A large one, Jones argued.

According to Jones, he'd just gotten a new camera, and he wanted to try it out by taking photographs of an old sugar factor at sunset. He'd been snapping for twenty minutes or so when he heard what he describes as a bellow. Turning in the direction of the sound, he saw a couple on a bench -- a woman seated and a man who was pacing and acting in a manner he saw as aggressive.

At that point, Jones decided to quick-step to his car, which was some distance south of his photo spot. By the time he got there, he says Manzanares had rounded a corner and was only about twenty yards away from him -- and moving fast.

Jones kept a gun under the passenger seat of the Toyota. He retrieved it and racked the slide, ejecting a live round onto the ground but loading another one into the chamber. Then, holding the gun pointed downward in one hand and his camera and tripod in the other, he announced to Manzanares that he had a gun.

Manzanares allegedly responded, "I don't give a fuck what you got" and pushed Jones into the car. Jones says he tried to use the camera and tripod as a shield, but Manzanares socked him with a roundhouse.

That's the point at which Jones, reportedly fearful for his life, raised the gun and shot Manzanares three times.

Would this situation have ended with both parties walking away had Jones not added a gun to the equation? Possibly. But as DA Quick writes in his letter, "As a prosecutor, my decision in this matter is confined to whether there is sufficient evidence to support the filing of criminal charges." And he concludes that there isn't.

Here's a larger look at Jones's mug shot, followed by the decision letter.

Lon Jones Decision Letter

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More from our Follow That Story archive: "Marvin Booker: Denver DA will file no charges in case of man who died in custody at Denver Jail."

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