Second STEM School Shooter Sentenced To Life In Prison
A judge sentenced a former high school student convicted of first degree murder and other charges for a 2019 shooting attack inside a suburban Denver high school that killed one student and injured eight others to mandatory life in prison without parole on Friday, telling the defendant he had shown no remorse and had failed to help a devastated community understand his actions.
Devon Erickson was convicted in June of all 46 charges against him, including murder in the death of Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old senior hailed as a hero for trying to stop the attack on a classroom at STEM School Highlands Ranch south of Denver. Eight other students were injured.
Prosecutors said Erickson, now 20, partnered with fellow student Alec McKinney in the May 7, 2019, shooting. Since Erickson was 18 and an adult at the time of the shooting, he faced a mandatory life sentence.
After a lengthy and emotional hearing in which survivors shared their continuing pain, trauma and disruptions to their lives, Judge Theresa Michelle Slade added hundreds of years of prison time to Erickson's life sentence for multiple attempted murder and other charges he was convicted of.
Wearing handcuffs, a red-and-white-striped prison suit and a blue face mask, Erickson displayed virtually no emotion during the hearing except for blowing his nose into his mask after sentencing. He also appeared briefly emotional as his parents, sister and grandfather told him they loved him in their testimony.
“I don’t think there is anything I can say to you, Mr. Erickson, that would make any difference," the judge said, recounting how the shootings had devastated not only the lives of those at the school and their families but well beyond the suburban Douglas County community where the school is located.
Slade also said Erickson, who declined to speak Friday, never attempted to explain why he did what he did — leaving a gaping hole in a community seeking at least some sense of partial closure.
“I don’t believe, Mr. Erickson, at least for now, that it makes a difference to you,” the judge said. “So what you do the rest of your life in prison, that's not on me. It's on you.”
McKinney, who was 16 and a juvenile at the time of the shooting, was sentenced to life last year but could become eligible for parole after about 20 years in prison under a program for juvenile offenders.
Erickson and McKinney targeted a classroom of high school students who were sitting in the dark, watching a movie at the end of their senior year. The two entered through separate doors to maximize the number of students they could kill, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that Erickson and McKinney concocted a “victim-hero” plan in which McKinney would either kill himself or be killed by Erickson.
The shootings stopped when Castillo and two other students, Joshua Jones and Brendan Bialy, charged Erickson, whose gun jammed after he fired four times. McKinney was apprehended by a school security guard.
Defense attorneys argued that Erickson was pressured into participating by McKinney, who testified against Erickson after pleading guilty last year. The defense also suggested that Castillo was accidentally shot as he pushed Erickson against a wall.
After the shooting, McKinney told investigators that he planned the attack for weeks and intended to target classmates who repeatedly mocked him because he was transgender, according to court documents.
At his sentencing hearing last year, McKinney said he did not want leniency and urged anyone planning a school shooting to get help. But he also suggested the shooting was Erickson’s idea.
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