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A North Philly man on trial for killing two people at a Bucks County campground says he acted in self-defense

Miles Jones is accused of shooting two men to death during a camping trip in West Rockhill Township in 2019.

Miles Jones, seen here in 2020, has been charged with two counts of homicide for killing two men at a campground in West Rockhill Township, according to prosecutors.
Miles Jones, seen here in 2020, has been charged with two counts of homicide for killing two men at a campground in West Rockhill Township, according to prosecutors.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

The trial of a North Philadelphia man accused of killing two people on a camping trip in Upper Bucks County began Monday with dueling interpretations of what sparked the fatal gunfire.

Prosecutors said Miles Jones, 42, was welcomed by his girlfriend’s family and friends on their annual fall retreat in October 2019. But by the end of the night, they said, two people were dead.

Jones is charged with shooting Eric Braxton, 41, and Arthur Hill, 46, after authorities say they tried to defuse an argument he was having with his girlfriend.

Minutes before the shooting, according to Deputy District Attorney Edward Louka, Jones told the group that “nobody was safe” and that they “were all going to pay.”

“He told them what he was going to do, and then 10-to-15 minutes later, he unleashed a nightmare on a group of people, who did nothing more than invite him on a camping trip,” said Louka, who called the shootings “two senseless killings that didn’t have to happen and were completely unjustified.”

» READ MORE: Bucks DA will seek death penalty for North Philly man who killed 2 at rural campground

Jones’ defense attorney, Kenneth Hone, offered a different account. He said the group attacked Jones and left him stranded, bloodied, and beaten in an unfamiliar place with no way back to the city. Jones told police he was “fighting for his life” and fired three shots in self-defense, fearful he wouldn’t make it home alive to his son, according to Hone.

“That was what was going through the heart, soul, and mind of Miles Jones that night … when he did what he felt he needed to do to save his life,” Hone said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Jones, who faces two counts of criminal homicide, reckless endangerment, and gun offenses. The trial, before Bucks County Court Judge Diane Gibbons, is expected to last as long as three weeks..

Jones was arrested at the Homestead Family Campgrounds in West Rockhill Township shortly after the gunfire rang out. Witnesses told police Jones’ girlfriend began screaming for help just before 2 a.m. Hill and his sons went to investigate, authorities said, and found Jones standing outside the tent, attempting to flip it over with his girlfriend still inside. Jones shoved Hill, they said, and one of Hill’s sons punched him in the face.

After the confrontation, prosecutors say, Jones returned with a 9mm handgun and approached Braxton, who Louka said was attempting to keep him separated from the rest of the group, and fired at point-blank range, hitting Braxton in the chest.

The rest of the group scattered into the woods, authorities said, and Jones fired two more times at them, striking Hill in the back as he fled. Both men later died at the scene.

Louka, in recounting the shooting for jurors, said Jones “brushed [Braxton] off as if he were a fly, as if his life meant nothing.”

“And when the defendant was done, two unarmed men, peacemakers, lay dead in front of their families,” he said.

But Hone said the prosecution’s interpretation was flawed.

“If you only focus on the end result … there can never be a reasonable self-defense claim,” Hone said. “That’s why this case is really about what got us there in the first place.”

After the initial argument with his girlfriend, Jones was “blindsided, sucker-punched” twice, Hone said, and knocked to the ground, where he at one point lost consciousness. He tried to flee after being forced into his girlfriend’s car, but found that he could barely walk because his foot had been broken in four places.

Eventually, Hone said, he did try to “hobble away” but was approached again by the aggressive crowd and used the gun to prevent another assault.

“He didn’t see it coming the first time, he didn’t see it coming the second time, and it’s not going to be three strikes, Miles, and you’re out,” Hone said.