STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting

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 Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch. One student was killed and eight others were injured. Two suspects, both students at the school, were arrested in connection with the shooting.[4]

STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting
Part of mass shootings in the United States
Highlands Ranch is located in Colorado
Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch (Colorado)
Highlands Ranch is located in the United States
Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch (the United States)
LocationHighlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S.
Coordinates39°33′22″N 104°59′52″W / 39.5560°N 104.9979°W / 39.5560; -104.9979Coordinates: 39°33′22″N 104°59′52″W / 39.5560°N 104.9979°W / 39.5560; -104.9979
DateMay 7, 2019
1:53 pm (MDT (UTC−6))
TargetSTEM School Highlands Ranch
Attack type
School shooting
Injured8 (6 by the suspects, 2 by friendly police fire)
ConvictedAlec McKinney,[2] Devon Erickson [3]


The K-12 charter school held approximately 1,850 students.[5] At the time of the shooting, it had no police officer assigned to it and used private security instead.[6]

In December 2018, an anonymous parent reportedly called the Douglas County School Board of Education's director to express concerns about the school, specifically about bullying and violence.[7] A district official wrote a letter on December 19, 2018 urging the School Executive Director to investigate concerns to determine their legitimacy and to take any remedial action that may be appropriate.[8] The school has since filed a defamation lawsuit against the parent who had raised allegations that the school was a pressure cooker for violence or a school shooting.[9]

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.[10][11][12]


At 1:53 pm, two perpetrators went into the school carrying handguns and other weapons hidden in guitar cases.[6] They opened fire in two separate locations, shooting several students.[13][14] The school proceeded to announce a lockdown,[6] and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office issued a warning via Twitter to avoid the area, describing it as an "unstable situation".[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] Erickson was then subdued and disarmed by two other students. This occurred in the high school section of STEM, while Alec McKinney targeted the middle school section and wounded eight students before being tackled by an armed security guard.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]


One student was killed and eight others were injured in the shooting, two were in serious condition.[4] On 12 May the last of wounded were released from the hospital.[22] Officials told reporters that the youngest victim is 15 years old.[23] There were no staff deaths or injuries; all victims were students.[24]

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.[25][26][27][28][29]


Two suspects, who were students at the school,[30] were taken into custody in two separate locations following the shooting.[31][32] 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.[33] 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 recognition.[34]

One perpetrator is Devon Michael Erickson, who was 18 at the time of the shooting.[35][36][37] 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."[38] On Snapchat, Erickson used the screen name 'devonkillz'.[39] 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.[21]

One perpetrator is Alec McKinney,[2][40] a transgender boy[41][42] who is listed on the court docket as "Maya Elizabeth McKinney".[43] He was 16 at the time of the shooting.[44]

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 bullied and 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." McKinney also stated he has heard voices and has suffered from homicidal and suicidal thoughts since the age of 12, and refused to take medication so that he wouldn’t feel alone. "The Voices Win" was found written in Devon Erickson’s house prior to the shooting. Both suspects said they used cocaine before the shooting.[45][46][47]

Court proceedings

After the initial court appearance on May 8, 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 tried to move his case to the juvenile court and the judge denied the motion.[48][49]

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 stayed on to oversee the case of Erickson.[50]

On January 2, 2020, Erickson pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and other charges. His trial began on May 31, 2021. [51] His defense team claimed that Erickson was an accomplice who was forced to commit the shooting. One of his defense attorneys said that he was a "confused kid" and "not a monster".[52]

On February 7, 2020, McKinney pleaded guilty to 17 charges in a plea bargain with the prosecution. On the first degree murder charge, he faced a minimum sentence of 40 years to life in prison, but could be eligible for release earlier than that if he enters a rehabilitation program and earns time off for good behavior. Due to his age he could not be given the death sentence or life without parole.[53][2] He was sentenced to life with a chance of parole in 40 years on May 18.[54]

On June 15, 2021, Devon Erickson was convicted on 46 counts, including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and supplying a juvenile with a handgun. On September 17, 2021, Erickson was sentenced to life in prison without parole. [55]


External video
  Man Describes Scene After Shooting at STEM School in Colorado - NBC 9 NEWS

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".[56]

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".[16] 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".[57][58]

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".[59][60] 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.[61][62]

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".[63] 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?"[33]

A couple of days after the shooting, there was a small local rally for increased school security.[64]

See also


  1. ^ "Accused Colorado School Shooter Fights to Be Tried as a Minor". November 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Donovan, Julia (February 7, 2020). "Alec McKinney, STEM School shooting suspect, pleads guilty". KRDO. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  3. ^ "Devon Erickson found guilty on all counts". Fox31 Denver. June 15, 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "1 student dead, multiple injured in Highlands Ranch school shooting, multiple ranking sources say". The Denver Channel. May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  5. ^ "About Us – About Us – STEM School Highlands Ranch". Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Healy, Jack; Stack, Liam (May 7, 2019). "School Shooting in Colorado Leaves 1 Student Dead and 7 Injured". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "'Perfect storm': District letter documents fears of another 'Columbine' at STEM School". KUSA. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Baumann, Beth. "STEM School Shooting Could Have Been Prevented If A Parent's Report Was Taken Seriously". Townhall. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  9. ^ "STEM School shooting suspects' court appearance delayed; school files defamation lawsuit against parent". FOX31 Denver. May 10, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  10. ^ Halsne, Chris (May 7, 2019). "Ominous note on STEM Wikipedia page a possible warning of school shooting". KDVR. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  11. ^ "Gunmen open fire at school near Denver, killing 1". BNO News. May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, Eilish (May 8, 2019). "Threatening text added to Wikipedia 8 days before STEM school shooting". The Daily Dot. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  13. ^ "1 Student Killed, Several Injured After Shooting At STEM School Highlands Ranch". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Douglas County Sheriff's Office [@dcsheriff] (May 7, 2019). "Unstable situation, shots fired at STEM school at Ridgeline and Plaza. Avoid area. Media go to north side of AMC" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ a b "1 student dead, multiple injured in Highlands Ranch school shooting, officials say". May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  17. ^ Ford, Sarah; Schuppe, Jon (May 8, 2019). "Direct radio link was a lifesaver in Colorado school attack, sheriff says". NBC News. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  18. ^ "Colorado school shooting: Student describes slain classmate tackling gunman". Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  19. ^ Emanuella Grinberg (May 8, 2019). "This sixth grader wanted to 'go down fighting' so he grabbed a bat during school shooting". CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  20. ^ Vaughan, Kevin (May 10, 2019). "STEM School Highlands Ranch security guard saw muzzle of weapon, fired 2 rounds, sources say". KUSA. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Miller, Blair (May 8, 2019). "Suspect in STEM School shooting makes first court appearance". KMGH. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  22. ^ Samantha M., Fox (May 12, 2019). "Final patient from STEM shooting released from the hospital". FOX31 Denver. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  23. ^ Sheena Jones; Steve Almasy; Darran Simon (May 7, 2019). "Eight student injured in school shooting in suburban Denver, 2 students are in custody". CNN. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  24. ^ "Sheriff gives update on STEM school shooting in Colorado". May 7, 2019 – via YouTube.
  25. ^ Romo, Vanessa; Gonzales, Richard. "1 Student Killed, 7 Injured In Colorado School Shooting". NPR. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  26. ^ Durkin, Erin (May 8, 2019). "'Best kid in the world': Denver school shooting victim died tackling suspect". The Guardian. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  27. ^ Khorri Atkinson; Rebecca Falconer (May 8, 2019). "Kendrick Ray Castillo identified as student killed in Colorado school shooting". Axios.
  28. ^ ""What he did was legendary": Colorado school shooting hero remembers the friend who acted first". CBS News. May 9, 2019. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  29. ^ Swensen, Jason (May 8, 2019). "Latter-day Saint 'hero' shot twice after rushing gunman at Colorado school shooting". Deseret News. Deseret News: Church News. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  30. ^ "1 dead and 8 injured, 2 suspects in custody after shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch". May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  31. ^ "Denver: two suspects in custody following shooting at school". The Guardian. Associated Press. May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  32. ^ Kirk Mitchell; Kieran Nicholson; Elise Schmelzer; Saja Hindi (May 7, 2019). "1 dead and 7 injured, 2 suspects in custody after shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch". The Denver Post. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  33. ^ a b Baer, Stephanie (May 12, 2019). "STEM Students Want Change After The Colorado School Shooting, But First They Want To Mourn". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  34. ^ Hughes, Trevor; Lam, Kristin (May 10, 2019). "Colorado school shooting suspects to appear in court on Wednesday amid looming questions". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  35. ^ Keith Coffman (May 8, 2019). "Older of two students arrested in Colorado shooting appears in court". Reuters. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  36. ^ "1 student dead, 8 injured in Highlands Ranch school shooting, officials say". The Denver Channel. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  37. ^ Post), Matt Schubert (The Denver. "Probable Cause Affidavit". Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  38. ^ "Suspected Colorado STEM shooter joked about school shootings, students say". NBC News. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  39. ^ Torres, Andrea (May 8, 2019). "Accused Colorado school shooter identifies as 'devonkillz' on Snapchat". WPLG-ABC 10. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  40. ^ Turkewitz, Julie; Healy, Jack; Mazzei, Patricia (May 8, 2019). "Colorado School Shooting Victim Died Trying to Stop the Gunman". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  41. ^ "18-year-old ID'd as one of the suspects in STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting". The Denver Post. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  42. ^ Halaschak, Zachary (May 9, 2019). "Transgender suspect asks court to use pronoun 'he' in Colorado school shooting case". Washington Examiner. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  43. ^ Coffman, Keith (May 9, 2019). "Two students arrested in Colorado school shooting make first..." Reuters. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  44. ^ "Order Re: Motion for Reverse Transfer - Courthouse News" (PDF).
  45. ^ Schmelzer, Elise (June 20, 2019). "STEM School shooting suspect told police he targeted specific students; teens used cocaine before attack, affidavit says". The Denver Post. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  46. ^ "Affidavit: STEM School Shooting Suspect Wanted Students To 'Suffer Trauma Like He Has'". June 20, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  47. ^ Determination of probable cause to detain (PDF) (Report). May 8, 2019. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  48. ^ "School Shooting Suspect Alec McKinney Charged As Adult: 48 Counts, 1st Degree Murder". 4CBS Denver. May 15, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  49. ^ "Accused 16-year-old STEM School shooter to stand trial as adult". December 4, 2019.
  50. ^ Schmelzer, Elise (June 14, 2019). "Judge recuses herself from case of younger STEM School shooting suspect". The Denver Post. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  51. ^ Coffman, Keith (February 7, 2020). "Colorado Transgender Teen Pleads Guilty to Murder in School Revenge Case". Reuters. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  52. ^ "'Not A Monster': Devon Erickson's Defense Attorney Says STEM School Shooting Suspect Was 'Confused Kid'". Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  53. ^ "Prosecutors won't seek death penalty against STEM school shooting suspect". KMGH. March 5, 2020.
  54. ^ Mansfield, Mollie (July 25, 2020). "LIFE FOR LIFE Transgender teen, 17, sentenced to life for Colorado shooting that left hero student who charged at him dead". The Sun. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  55. ^ Madani, Doha (June 16, 2021). "Colorado STEM school shooter guilty on 46 counts, including murder of Kendrick Castillo". NBC News. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  56. ^ "Donald Trump Twitter". Twitter. Donald Trump. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  57. ^ Foody, Kathleen. "1 dead, 8 hurt in Colorado school shooting, 2 in custody". Associated Press. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  58. ^ Wingerter, Justin (May 8, 2019). "Trump briefed on "hateful and horrible acts of violence" at STEM School". The Denver Post. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  59. ^ Tabachnik, Sam (May 9, 2019). "STEM School students protest political nature of vigil, prompting apology from gun control group". The Denver Post. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  60. ^ "STEM School Shooting: Community Dinner And Vigils Planned For Wednesday Night". CBS Local. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  61. ^ "Colorado Students Walk Out of School Shooting Vigil as Politicians Take the Mics". FoxNews. May 9, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  62. ^ John Verhovek. "Colorado students walk out as school shooting vigil turns political". Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  63. ^ Argosino, Fischer (May 10, 2019). "Why I left the Colorado school shooting vigil: Students want change but first let us mourn". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  64. ^ "Parents press Douglas County school board for changes following STEM shooting". FOX31 Denver. May 11, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2019.