STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting Douglas County, Colorado On May 7, 2019


Maya Elizabeth McKinney. Devon Erickson

Transgender Female.


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On May 7, 2019, a school shooting occurred at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a charter school located in Douglas County, Colorado, United States, in the Denversuburb of Highlands Ranch. One student was killed and eight others were injured.

On April 29, 2019, the Wikipedia entry for the STEM School Highlands Ranch featured the sentence: “Anti suicide programs are implemented [in the school] to help lower chances of suicide and school shootings.” The following comment was added by an anonymous editor that day: “Do they work? We shall see”. KDVR described this as “a possible warning”. All anonymous edits to Wikipedia leave an IP address of the editor’s computer, and according to an IP address lookup website, the location of the edit appears to be Littleton, Colorado, which is near where the shooting occurred, and no other edits to Wikipedia were made by that IP address. The comment was eventually deleted from the page.

At 1:53 PM local time, two perpetrators went into the school carrying handguns and other weapons. They opened fire in two separate locations, shooting several students. The school proceeded to announce a lockdown, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning via Twitter to avoid the area, describing it as an “unstable situation”. Police responded to the school two minutes after the first 911 call and a bomb disposal robot was brought to the school after tactical gear was found inside one of the suspects’ vehicles. A direct two-way radio link to Douglas County Sheriff’s dispatch center is credited with the prompt response; the STEM School is one of only a few so equipped.

According to a student, Devon Erickson allegedly pulled out a gun and yelled, “nobody move”. Kendrick Ray Castillo jumped on him and was fatally shot in the chest. Erickson was then subdued and disarmed by two other students. This occurred in the high school section of STEM, while Alec McKinney, the other alleged shooter, targeted the middle school section and wounded eight students.

Officers did not have to fire at the suspects prior to them being taken into custody, later confirming that at least two handguns were used in the shooting, with three handguns and a rifle recovered. However, there was an instance of friendly fire during the response in which a private security guard reacted to a muzzle of a gun coming around the corner, that was later established to be held by a Douglas County Sheriffs deputy. Officers also went to Erickson’s home and seized a car with hand-painted graffiti that read “Fuck society” as well as “666” and a pentagram.

One student was killed and eight others were injured in the shooting. Two are in serious condition. Officials told reporters that the youngest victim is 15 years old. There were no staff deaths or injuries; all victims were students.

At least three students, 18-year-old seniors Kendrick Castillo, Joshua Jones, and Brendan Bialy lunged at an attacker, later identified as Erickson. The three students jumped from their desks and slammed the gunman against the wall. The shooter fired off several shots as they struggled with him. Castillo was killed in the process, the only student killed during the shooting. Jones was shot twice, receiving non-life-threatening injuries in his leg and hip. Bialy managed to wrestle the handgun away from the shooter during the struggle

Two suspects, who were students at the school, were taken into custody in two separate locations following the shooting. Local media outlets reported that the weapons used by the suspects were stolen from a parent, and that neither were known to law enforcement prior to the attack. Some media outlets made an effort to avoid reporting the suspect’s identities, in an effort to take part in the #NoNotoriety campaign which seeks to avoid rewarding the shooters with attention.

One suspect was later publicly identified as an 18-year-old male, Devon Erickson (born ca. 2001, in Highlands Ranch, Colorado) . According to an interview with one of the STEM school students, over repeated occasions Erickson made jokes about school shootings and had even gone as far as to tell those around him, “don’t come to school.” On Snapchat, Erickson used the screen name ‘devonkillz’. Erickson was booked on 30 criminal counts, which included one count of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is being held without bond pending the next court appearance.

The other suspect is a 16-year-old transgender boy listed on the court docket as Maya Elizabeth McKinney, who uses the first name Alec.

On June 20, a statement was released that summarized police interviews with the two suspects. According to the statement, McKinney said he had been planning the attack for weeks, and Erickson said he learned about the attack the night before through Snapchat. Erickson said that McKinney threatened him and that he followed McKinney’s plan because he feared for his life. McKinney said he planned to target two students in particular as they had ridiculed him due to his gender identity and called him disgusting. McKinney said that “he wanted the kids at the school to experience bad things, have to suffer from the trauma like he has had to in his life.” Both suspects said they used cocaine before the shooting.

Court proceedings

After the initial May 8 court appearance, Erickson and McKinney were formally criminally charged for the shooting at a May 15 court hearing in the Douglas County court. Each of the two suspects was charged with 48 criminal counts, including “first-degree murder after deliberation, arson and burglary”. McKinney was charged as an adult, although his lawyers indicated that they will try to move his case to the juvenile court.

On June 14 it was announced that the Judge appointed to oversee both of the suspects cases, had recused herself from the case of McKinney but has stayed on to oversee the case of Erickson.

President Trump issued a statement on Twitter the day after the shooting, thanking first responders for “bravely intervening” and writing, “We are in close contact with law enforcement”.

The White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere issued a statement: “Our prayers are with the victims, family members, and all those affected” by the shooting, as did Republican Senator Cory Gardner: “The safety and comfort of our schools should never be taken away”. Democratic Representative Jason Crow said: “… we have a public health crisis on our hands … It is not enough to send thoughts and prayers … We must pass common-sense gun violence laws and ensure we are preparing our educators and law enforcement with the tools and resources necessary to create a safe and welcoming environment.”

Vigils, rallies and memorials

Community gatherings were held after the shooting, which included an interfaith memorial vigil, a community service and dinner, and other memorials. During the vigil, a protest broke out and many students were heard saying “mental health”. A large portion of the students walked out of the event, which was organized by a local chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The walkout occurred after the students listened to speeches from members of the community and several politicians, who were perceived by the students to be more concerned with gun control than on the need to support the victims of the shooting. One student wrote an opinion piece critical of the vigil, saying “many who attended this vigil desired to exploit our pain to support political agendas” and that there should have been more focus on “honoring Kendrick, 18, who rushed the shooter and was fatally shot”. Another interviewed shortly after the vigil claimed, “I understand calling for gun control but like these were handguns — these aren’t AR-15s these kids are carrying. There’s a law in Colorado you can’t buy a handgun unless you’re 21 – like how can you prevent that?”

A couple of days after the shooting, there was a small local rally for increased school security.

Update

(CNN) — A high school student accused of opening fire in a Colorado school told investigators he targeted those who mocked his gender identity, and had messaged a second suspect on Snapchat hours earlier about his plan, court documents show.
The May shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch near Denver killed Kendrick Ray Castillo, 18, and left eight others wounded.
In police records unsealed Thursday, Alec McKinney, 16, said he decided to carry out the shooting after the social media message to Devon Erickson,18, the night before.
In an interview with police, McKinney told officials while he made the decision hours earlier, he had been planning the shooting for weeks.

Colorado school shooting suspect targeted those who ridiculed him, police say
By Faith Karimi and Scott McLean, CNN

Updated at 5:56 AM ET, Fri June 21, 2019

Students describe Colorado school shooting 02:27
(CNN) — A high school student accused of opening fire in a Colorado school told investigators he targeted those who mocked his gender identity, and had messaged a second suspect on Snapchat hours earlier about his plan, court documents show.
The May shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch near Denver killed Kendrick Ray Castillo, 18, and left eight others wounded.
In police records unsealed Thursday, Alec McKinney, 16, said he decided to carry out the shooting after the social media message to Devon Erickson,18, the night before.
In an interview with police, McKinney told officials while he made the decision hours earlier, he had been planning the shooting for weeks.

They allegedly broke firearms safe using an ax
McKinney said he was born a female but was transitioning to male, and he targeted specific students who called him “disgusting” for undergoing that process, according to a probable cause affidavit. His attorneys have said he identifies as male.
Erickson’s parents owned a safe with firearms, the affidavit says, and the pair left school that day and opened it with an ax.
Erickson took the two handguns used in the shooting from his parents, according to a law enforcement source. Both guns were purchased legally.
Both suspects face criminal charges in the shooting, including first-degree murder, the Denver Post reported. It said McKinney has been charged as an adult.
Suspects allegedly used cocaine
Erickson said they used cocaine in his basement before going back to school. The two students used the middle school entrance because they knew they would be able to get the guns into the school, the affidavit states.
Erickson said McKinney threatened to shoot him if he didn’t go along with the plan, documents allege.
After Erickson pulled the magnetic strip on the door and pulled it shut so it couldn’t be opened from the outside, they both pulled out their guns and said “nobody move,” the affidavit says.
Both teens were detained.
Other students helped disarm the suspects
Brendan Bialy, who helped disarm one of the suspects, said he wants people to remember Castillo as a “legend.”

Colorado school shooting suspect targeted those who ridiculed him, police say
By Faith Karimi and Scott McLean, CNN

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