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2/17/2013 6:00:00 AM
Prosecutors drop charges in Kingman shooting death
Chances for conviction of 70-year-old man slim, county attorney's office decides
James Clifton Craft
James Clifton Craft

Ahron Sherman
Miner Staff Reporter

Mohave County prosecutors have dropped the second-degree murder charge against a north Kingman man who shot and killed his neighbor late Jan. 22 outside of a triplex on Dove Lane.

James Clifton Craft, 70, called 911 a little after 10 p.m. Jan. 22 and told dispatchers that he had just shot someone outside of his door. The man he shot, 27 year-old Matthew James Paulson, was declared dead at the scene.

"I shot him in self defense," Craft said.

Craft said he was in his residence that night when he heard a series of loud bangs, which sounded as if someone was pounding on the hood of a car. He said he opened his door to take a look at what was going on and saw his neighbor, Paulson, jumping up and down and pounding his fists into the hoods of the vehicles parked there. He was also screaming racial epithets, but it was unclear whom his rage was directed at, Craft said.

Mohave County Prosecutor Jacob Cote said a witness who also lives at the triplex confirmed that Paulson was shouting and banging on things outside.

The witness told prosecutors that he was able to calm down Paulson and then returned to his home, Cote said. A few moments later, the witness went back outside to check on Craft and together the two began using a flashlight to look for dents in the vehicles.

The witness said that at that point, Paulson reappeared and started yelling at both of them, Cote said.

According to the witness, Paulson put his hands on him and tried to stop him from returning to his home. The witness did not say Paulson struck him, but he was concerned that he was about to, Cote said.

The witness was able to remove himself from Paulson's grip and get inside his residence, where he proceeded to roll a cigarette. He decided to check on Craft again and saw Paulson on Craft's doorstep screaming and waving his hands in his face.

Craft said that Paulson turned his attention to him after his neighbor was able to remove himself from Paulson's grip.

"I turn around and he's coming at me," said Craft, who had already grabbed his firearm. "I fired a warning shot and yelled, 'Hey,'" Craft said.

Craft said Paulson did not heed his warning and continued toward him. When he was right on top of him, Craft pulled the trigger again.

Paulson stopped and immediately turned around and walked away, Craft said. Craft shut his door, locked it and called 911. Within four minutes, deputies were on the scene, he said.

"It happened in two blinks," Craft said

Paulson had returned to his room in the triplex, where deputies later found him dead.

Cote said the witness reported hearing only one shot.

When a person claims to have shot someone in self-defense, Arizona law places the burden on prosecutors to disprove it, Cote said.

"It's very hard to disprove something," Cote explained.

It's unlikely that prosecutors could convince a jury that the shooting was not justified, Cote said. So the charges were dropped.

About 15 minutes prior to Craft's 911 call, another person who lived a block over from Dove called 911 and claimed that Paulson was running down the street chasing a pit bull.

That call combined with Craft and the witness' description of the events surrounding the shooting paint a very similar picture of Paulson, who has "a rap sheet as long as your arm," Cote said.

"But we still don't know exactly what happened," Cote said.

Cote said the County Attorney's Office is still waiting on Paulson's autopsy and toxicology results. The office could re-file charges, depending on those results, but Cote said it's highly unlikely that will happen.

Craft said he never shot someone before that night and added that he had never been in jail either.

Though they lived right next to each other, Craft said: "I didn't know the man at all."

MCSO's investigation into the shooting is closed, and Craft received all of the property deputies confiscated back except for the gun, which Craft said he doesn't want anyway.

ICT - Hummingbead of Kingman
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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Blow

This is a surprising decision ... usually it is only the criminals who walk in Mohave County ... this guy is lucky he didn't get the electric chair!!!

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013
Article comment by: William Wagoner

Wierd that the article is written from the point of view that anyone needs to prosecute Mr Craft. We're comparing an out of control repeat offender to a 70 yr.old peaceful citizen. What's to question?

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013
Article comment by: Origional Kingman Resident


It didn't go to court. The incident took place only 3 weeks ago. The sheriff deputies who responded arrested the shooter. The sheriff dept. and the prosecuter did further investigation and the prosecuter decided to drop the charges.

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013
Article comment by: np .....

web cams, web cams, folks. They're not very expensive and can usually be hidden out of sight. Get it all on film, call authorities and the perp won't be able to talk his way out of it, and neither will his lawyer.

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: Judge Wapner

Read the article, It didn't go to court.

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: just a nobody

It sounds like a cut and dry case of self defense, but I wonder why this man doesn't want his gun back, thats the first thing I would be saying I'd want back....kinda strange....

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: Kingmanite 50+ Years

Rick O'Shea is right, the county attorney's office WASTED a lot of taxpayer dollars on this case - and not to serve justice, but to help build up the careers and egos of some pathetic people in the prosecutor's office. They WASTED a staggering amount of money prosecuting "the cat thief woman of Golden Valley" with full knowledge that she was in all probability innocent, but yet they run an EXPENSIVE prosecution for a trivial crime based on the crazy rants of an insane woman.

And here we see another case of flagrant abuse of taxpayer dollars. It was clear that the Paulson was crazy and a danger to others, after only a few hours of investigating that should have been clear to the deputies, but they just had to arrest the elderly James Craft because he did not behave like a good victim and just die at the hands of a madman, he defended his life (sort of what the deputies SHOULD have done by arresting PAULSON before he got to this point). Prosecuting Craft was just a stupid waste that was done to distract people from the real issue, and that is WHY do lunatics like Paulson and others go on and on and on, disturbing the peace of taxpaying citizens, and they NEVER get prosecuted. They are immune from any justice in this county, so they just get worse and worse until it develops into a tragedy like this one, with one mentally ill person dead, one innocent citizen locked up in jail, and more and more taxpayer dollars wasted in NOT fighting crime.

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: Avg Joe

Glad to hear the man was not charged. It's clear it was a justifiable cause to defend himself. Good luck to Mr Craft and I hope he can put this behind him.

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: One Question

Why didn't somebody just call the police when the guy was running around yelling? It seems to have went on quite awhile. Just because the guy has a long rap sheet doesn't mean a person can shoot him down like a dog. That would be the cop's job, they are good at that. (ONLY IN KINGMAN)

Were the cops called when the guy was disrupting the peace? Our prosecutors like to double and triple charge some people and then others (like the GOB's kids) they let off scott free. Selective justice. It would be nice if they treated us equally around these hillbilly hills.

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: Rick O'Shea

What I question is, didn't the district attorney review this, this case should have never even went to court in the first place, waste of taxpayer money.

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