An attorney for a security guard on the scene of a Colorado school shooting this week says his client acted in the ‘best interest’ of children, faculty and staff. Officials have identified two suspects in the shooting that left one student dead. (May 9)
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A 16-year-old suspect in last week’s deadly shooting rampage at a suburban Denver high school will be tried as an adult, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Alec McKinney, 16, and Devon Erickson, 18, have been jailed since the May 7 assault at the Stem School Highlands Ranch that left one student dead and eight wounded. District Attorney George Brauchler had not revealed until Wednesday whether McKinney would be charged as an adult or a juvenile.
Both suspects had court hearings Wednesday, and court documents briefly made available revealed that both to face a long list of charges including murder and attempted murder. Judge Theresa Slade later ordered the documents be sealed after defense attorneys asked that the charges be kept secret for at least another two weeks while they investigate the case. They argued that releasing the charges could sway witness testimony.
“There are times when it is appropriate to suppress information,” Slade said.
During the two hearings, each defendant sat quietly, wrists and ankles shackled. Erickson, his black hair dyed with purple-pink streaks, didn’t speak or interact with anyone. McKinney spoke only once, in a clear, high voice, to acknowledge a question from the judge.
Investigators have declined to discuss how the students obtained the weapons. The attack horrified this suburban community where the STEM School is a charter school to which students must request admission.
Wednesday’s hearing took place hours before services are held for the lone fatality, Kendrick Castillo, a senior at STEM School Highlands Ranch. District Attorney George Brauchler said McKinney will be charged as an adult.
Services for shooting victim Kendrick Castillo were being held later Wednesday, but his parents attended the morning court session. Reporters were kept segregated from family members of the victims and the suspects.
“I can’t imagine going through a more difficult situation than they are going through,” Brauchler said of the Castillo family.
The shootings rocked the community and the school. Parents say the charter school, which is technology focused, works hard to create an environment of personal accountability and problem-solving. Bullying isn’t tolerated, said parent Candace Craig, who has three kids at the school – if anything, she said, peer pressure shuts down bullying immediately.
Craig said she believes it’s important to understand why the attack occurred.
“I want to call them names and reduce them to their actions, but when it’s this close to home, there’s a piece of me that can’t reduce them to what they did,” she said. “We need to hear from them, but I don’t know how that looks in a healthy way.”
The attack unfolded nearly three weeks after neighboring Littleton marked the anniversary of the Columbine attack that killed 13 people. The two schools are separated by about 7 miles in adjacent communities south of Denver.
The local Knights of Columbus, where Castillo often volunteered with his father, was helping pay funeral expenses and providing an honor guard.
Friends remember Castillo as funny, smart and modest and expressed no surprise that he protected his classmates. Castillo, a member of the school’s robotics club who loved to tinker with his own projects, was set to graduate days after he was killed.
Witnesses said Castillo was among three students who tackled a classmate who opened fire in his classroom.
Joshua Jones, who fought back alongside Castillo and Brendan Bialy, was shot twice in the leg. He spoke publicly about the tragedy and Castillo’s heroism for the first time Tuesday.
“There wasn’t a whole lot that was going through my mind at the time,” he said at a news conference. “Adrenaline and tunnel vision are a crazy thing.”
Jones, also an 18-year-old senior, said he called his mother even before authorities arrived at the chaotic scene. Jones described the call: “It was something like ‘Hey, mom, there’s been a school shooting. I’ve been involved. The authorities are on the way. They’re going to get an ambulance and I’m going to go to the hospital. That’s all I got right now for you.’”
He said he remains in a “funk” emotionally but that his physical wounds were healing well. And he said the carnage would have been worse if all three had not worked together.
“If it was just me or just Brendan or just Kendrick it would have been much worse for everybody in that room,” Jones said.
Details about the armed school security guard who subdued the second suspect also emerged this week. The man’s employer, Boss High Level Protection, was contracted to guard the school that about 1,800 students attend.
The guard, whose name has not been released, fired his weapon inside the school during the response to the shooting, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press on Thursday. Two news organizations citing anonymous sources reported that authorities are investigating whether the guard mistakenly fired at a responding sheriff’s deputy and may have wounded a student.
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The law enforcement official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to make information public. The official did not address whether anyone was hit by the security guard’s firing.
An attorney for the guard declined to directly answer questions Thursday about the media reports but said his client helped prevent any further bloodshed at the school. The security guard is a former Marine and previously worked for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, attorney Robert Burk said.
“He ran there as quick as he could and took what I think is decisive action that helped save lives,” Burk said.
Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: The Associated Press
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