DENVER — Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped one of two first-degree murder charges against the man accused of killing two brothers in an apparent road rage shooting this summer in Denver.
Stephan Long, 25, is scheduled to be arraigned on the second first-degree murder charge this November, following a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning. In that hearing, the prosecution entered one witness and five pieces of evidence into the court record in their argument in favor of putting Long on trial.
This hearing came after months of pleas from the suspect’s family, who claimed the shooting was self-defense.
Long was in court for the alleged killing of brothers Blake Lucas, 21, and Damon Lucas, 22, on June 13. The brothers, who family members said were on their way to a job interview, were found dead on Interstate 25 near 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue, according to a probable cause statement.
Blake Lucas was taken to a hospital, where he died. Damon Lucas had several gunshot wounds and was pronounced deceased at the scene. Both deaths were ruled a homicide two days later.
The probable cause statement concluded by saying, in part, "the suspect also fled the scene and did not call 911 about this incident. The suspect was not injured and did not have any visible injuries."
Long was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting after he was arrested.
The murder charge that was dropped Wednesday was related to Blake Lucas’ death, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office. The courtroom was packed with loved ones of both Long and the Lucas brothers.
In court on Wednesday, Denver police Det. Adam Lucero, who was on call the day of the alleged shooting, recalled the witness accounts from the alleged crime. He said witnesses told police that Long was in a red 2011 Ford Taurus that was tailgating another car, which was occupied by the brothers. When traffic stopped on a busy stretch of I-25, witnesses said the three people started arguing.
Blake Lucas, who was the passenger in the brothers’ car, was the first to confront Long, according to Lucero’s account of witness reports, and Long allegedly shot the brother. Damon Lucas, who was driving the brothers' car, then ran after Long’s car and grabbed it as Long drove away. Long tried to swerve the car to shake Damon Lucas free before ultimately shooting him, witnesses told police.
Prosecutors argued Wednesday that Long made a conscious decision to use deadly force against Damon Lucas. The defense argued that Long was in a state of panic and thus wasn’t using reasoned judgment.
"It is not for the judge to accept the defendant's version of the facts," the judge said.
Long still faces a first-degree murder charge in connection with the shooting death of 22-year-old Damon Lucas.
An arraignment, which is a hearing in which Long will be expected to enter a plea, is scheduled for Nov. 30 at 8:30 a.m.
"I can empathize with both sides when I put myself in everyone’s shoes," said Erin Riley, a family friend of the Long family. She attended the preliminary hearing. "What happened that day was a tragedy and everyone agrees."
Long is on house arrest, but the court agreed Wednesday to expand his radius to his backyard so he could go outside with his children. A request for Long to leave the house for his children's doctor appointments was also granted.
Alexander Landau, founder of the Denver Justice Project, has also been advocating to have all charges dropped against Long.
"Stephan was doing what he thought, in the heat of the moment, what was constitutionally appointed to him. By no means was he looking for trouble that morning," Landau said.
In August, Denver7 spoke with the father of the two victims, Arthur Lucas, who described Damon as a leader and Blake as a kind person.
“I don't see where self-defense really is logical to claim right now," he said this summer.
Previously, Long's mother Stephanie Clifton told Denver7 that the system designed to uphold justice failed her family. Her son has a family, sharing two young daughters with his wife, she said, and he had the right to defend himself.
She also noted that while the court shows her son's name as Stephen Long, his birth certificate identifies him as Stephan.