A 20-year-old man has been convicted of murder for his role in a mass shooting at his high school in Colorado in which one student was killed in 2019 and eight others were injured.
Devon Erickson was 18 when he and another teenager, Alec McKinney, entered the STEM School Highlands Ranch, where they were students, and started shooting in a classroom on May 7, 2019.
The shooting, in an English class where students watched “The Princess Bride” three days before the last day of school, killed Kendrick Castillo, 18, a gentle teenager who was fascinated by cars and engineering and who tried to stop the attack. has.
A jury found Mr. Erickson on Tuesday pleaded guilty to 46 charges related to the shooting, including first-degree murder for the death of Mr. Castillo. Mr Erickson, who was convicted after a 12-day trial, was also convicted of conspiracy to kill six other students who were shot during the attack but survived. According to prosecutors, two other students were also injured in another classroom.
Following the verdict, John Castillo, the father of Kendrick Castillo, said the jury’s decision provides some justice for his son, his only child.
“I feel like he was with us. He was probably with the jurors who helped this decision, “he said. reporters said after the verdict. “We will never stop missing him. We will never stop honoring him. ‘
John Kellner, the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in Colorado, said many more people would be hurt and killed if it were not for Mr. Castillo and other students were who after Mr. Erickson and Mr. McKinney did not hesitate.
The mandatory penalty for first-degree murder in Colorado is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, Mr. Kellner said.
“On top of that, there are hundreds of years that will also be mandatory,” he said. told reporters after the verdict was announced.
Mitchell Kraus, a student at the school who testified during the trial, said the verdict gives him a sense of relief and closure.
“Now that I can be sure that this monster, to be honest, will never see the light of day again, it’s just a weight off my back,” said Mr. Kraus told reporters.
Erickson’s lawyers, David Kaplan and Julia Stancil, argued during the trial that he did not intend to kill anyone that day.
They said he was malnourished and depressed and that he used cocaine and methamphetamines in large quantities. Mr Erickson, who is 5 inches tall, weighed 95 pounds at the time of his arrest. according to a police statement.
His lawyers said in their opening statement before calling Mr. McKinney, Erickson, met was a hot, funny teen who loved music and was kind to people who were bullied.
In 2019, when his mother became ill and his family life broke, Mr. Erickson became depressed. The lawyers said he was under the influence of Mr. McKinney, who was 16 when the shooting occurred, fell and that he was ‘the puppet master’.
Mr. Kaplan declined to comment on Wednesday’s ruling.
Mr. McKinney, whose legal name is Maya McKinney, told authorities he targeted several students who “always” mock him, “hate” him, name him and say he’s disgusting because he’s trying to be a guy, ‘according to affidavit from the sheriff’s office in Douglas County.
A student called Mr. McKinney’s laptop broke down and repeatedly referred to him as ‘a she’, the statement read.
Mr. McKinney also told authorities that the suicidal and murderous thoughts he had had since he was 12 came back to him in the weeks before the shooting.
Prosecutors said Mr. McKinney and Mr. Erickson fired guns they took after appearing at a closed cabinet in Mr. Erickson’s home was broken into.
During the trial, prosecutors said Mr. McKinney called to the stand. He testified that he and Mr. Erickson planned the attack together. The plan was to kill everyone in the classroom and then for Mr. Erickson about mr. To kill McKinney so that Mr. Erickson would look heroic, Mr. McKinney said.
Mr. Kraus, the student who during the trial of mr. Erickson testified, telling reporters that he was with Mr. Erickson walked down a hallway.
“All the time he did not turn to me and say, ‘This is about to happen, this is something you can avoid,'” he said. “He just acted completely normal.”
Mr McKinney pleaded guilty last year to 17 charges related to the shooting, including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder after the summit, and six charges of attempted murder after deliberation. He was sentenced to life in prison and another 38 years.
According to Colorado law, the mandatory minimum sentence for someone convicted of first-degree murder at age 16 is life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 40 years minus earning time. As mnr. McKinney would be included in a special program for inmates under 18, he could be released within 20 or 25 years, said Vikki Migoya, a spokeswoman for the office of Mr. Kellner, said.
Mr. Erickson will be sentenced on Sept. 17.