A Colorado assistant high school principal and his neighbor met in a school parking lot to “box it out” in February after more than a year’s worth of disputes involving parking and AirBnb, a hearing revealed Friday.
Instead of coming unarmed, Marcus Johnson “brought a gun to a fistfight,” a judge said. Johnson is accused of shooting and killing T.J. Cunningham, the Hinkley High School (Aurora, Colo.) assistant principal and former NFL football player, according to the Denver Post.
“(Johnson) came prepared, from his standpoint, of how he was going to approach ‘boxing it out,'” District Court Judge John Scipione said, according to the Denver Post. “He brought a gun to a fistfight.”
The neighbors had disputes since 2017, Arapahoe County investigator Mary Lou Kochaniec said, according to the Denver Post. There was initially a parking agreement in 2017 after Cunningham asked Johnson to move his car.
Later, though, Cunningham complained to the neighborhood home owner’s association that Johnson was renting out his home on AirBnb, according to the Denver Post.
Prosecutors said Friday the two neighbors sought protection orders against the other, according to the Denver Post.
Kochaniec’s synopsis came through interviews with Cunningham’s wife, Kristi. Johnson’s defense disputed the version.
On Feb. 17, Cunningham arrived home with alcohol he was planning to serve at a party scheduled for that day, the outlet reported. Johnson confronted him.
Security cameras show them arguing in the road and, at one point, Cunningham trying to walk away but being blocked by Johnson.
The two decided to meet at Eaglecrest High School (Centennial, Colo.) to “box it out,” Cunningham’s 17-year-old brother said in a probable cause statement acquired by the Denver Post.
Johnson arrived with a gun. Cunningham was unarmed, according to the Denver Post. He was shot three times and later died.
Scipione said there was probable cause for Johnson’s charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, according to the Denver Post.
Johnson’s defense team argued the shooting was in self-defense and reactionary, not premeditated, the outlet reported.
Cunningham, who played college football at Colorado from 1992 to 1995, played nine games for the Seattle Seahawks in 1996 before injuries ended his career, according to KDVR.
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for his family. As of Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, it had raised more than $81,000.