Denver prosecutors on Wednesday dropped one murder charge against the man accused of killing two brothers in a road rage incident on Interstate 25 earlier this year.
Prosecutors did not think they could prove the first-degree murder charge against 25-year-old Stephen Long in the death of one brother, said Matt Jablow, a spokesman for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. But prosecutors are continuing to pursue a first-degree murder case in the death of the second brother.
The move comes days after 11 Denver City Council members sent McCann a letter expressing concerns about how her office handled Long’s case. In the Oct. 9 letter, the council members compared the road-rage shooting to the slaying of 12-year-old Elias Armstrong, a Black boy who was shot by a white man who claimed self-defense and was not criminally charged.
“We cannot help but be struck by a seeming double standard…” the letter read. “Both claimed self-defense. Both appear to have had legal and registered firearms and claimed self-defense fearing their life was in danger in their use of their firearm. Yet they have been treated in drastically different ways.”
Jablow declined to comment on the letter.
Long, who is Black, is accused of shooting and killing both Blake Lucas, 21, and Damon Lucas, 22, who were white, on June 13 during a road-rage incident on Interstate 25 near the intersections with Sixth and Eighth avenues.
Witnesses told police that traffic was at a standstill on the interstate that day when Long, who was driving a red Ford Taurus, and the brothers, who were in a silver sedan, got into a confrontation, according to testimony at Long’s preliminary hearing Wednesday in Denver District Court.
Witnesses reported both that the Taurus driver was tailgating the sedan, and that the sedan driver cut off the Taurus, according to Wednesday’s testimony.
Eventually, Blake Lucas got out of the passenger side of the silver sedan and went up to Long, who was in the driver’s seat of the Taurus. Blake Lucas then started punching at Long through the window, according to testimony.
Long shot the man. As Blake Lucas retreated after being shot, his brother, Damon Lucas, rushed at the Taurus and started hanging on the driver’s side window as Long drove away, according to testimony.
Long then shot Damon Lucas as well. Neither brother survived. Long did not stop at the scene or call 911, but a police officer who happened to be nearby in an unmarked car followed Long’s Taurus until Long stopped near the intersection of Meade Street and 13th Avenue. He was then arrested.
Long initially was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, but prosecutors on Wednesday dropped the murder charge in the killing of Blake Lucas, the brother who allegedly threw punches at Long.
“After reviewing all the facts involved in the death of Blake Lucas, we did not believe that we could prove Mr. Long’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Jablow said in a statement Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.
Long’s supporters have said that he acted in self-defense when he shot both men. Denver Justice Project has called for all charges against Long to be dismissed and has suggested he was only criminally charged in the incident because he is Black and the Lucas brothers were white. The council members’ Oct. 9 letter expressed similar concerns.
Denver Justice Project co-director Alex Landau on Wednesday said the dismissal of one murder charge was a step in the right direction.
“We are halfway there to justice,” he said.
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