A former high school student accused of carrying out a Colorado school shooting in 2019 was convicted Tuesday on 46 counts, including first-degree murder, numerous sources reported.
Devon Erickson, now 20, joined with Alec McKinney, a younger student, to carry out the shooting, which resulted in the death of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and injuries to eight others at STEM School Highlands Ranch, prosecutors said, according to The Associated Press (AP).
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Other charges Erickson was convicted of include conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and providing a juvenile a handgun, according to NBC News. Erickson pleaded not guilty in January 2020.
The shooting occurred in May 2019 in a classroom of high school seniors, days before graduation. McKinney, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, testified against Erickson and said that they had been planning for weeks to carry out the shooting in that specific classroom, and that Erickson would kill all of the people in the classroom before killing McKinney, 9 News reported.
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Police believed McKinney planned the shooting because he wanted to inflict trauma on students over gender taunts he faced, probable cause documents from 2019 said, according to NBC News. (RELATED: Report: Colorado Shooting Suspects Motivated By ‘Revenge And Anger,’ One Suspect Transgender)
After the shooting, McKinney reportedly told police that he was transitioning and preferred male pronouns.
Erickson’s defense team argued that McKinney had manipulated Erickson, and that his client wanted to find a way out of the plan, according to 9 News. He argued that the shooting happened after McKinney sent him a threatening messaging to help with the attack, according to the AP.
“Having a panic attack, couldn’t breathe, sweaty, pale, blackened around the eyes,” David Kaplan, Erickson’s defense attorney, said. “This isn’t participating in the plan. This is trying to get the strength, trying to figure out a way to get out of it.”
Prosecutors said Erickson fired his gun four times, shooting Castillo, who lunged at Erickson, according to NBC News. Mitchell Krause was shot in the back, according to 9 News.
The defense team questioned McKinney about his version about what happened, suggesting that he changed his story to take advantage of a program that would give him early release, according to 9 News. The program applies to some offenders who committed crimes as juveniles, but offenders with serious mental health issues are not eligible.
“So, nine months into your incarceration, you just suddenly don’t have voices in your head anymore?” attorney Julia Stancil asked.
“It was nine months of me being sober, yes,” McKinney replied.
McKinney pleaded guilty in February to charges including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after deliberation. He was sentenced to life in prison but will be eligible for parole after 40 years.
Erickson, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, faces life in prison without parole, according to NBC News. He was eligible to face the death penalty, but it was not sought, according to 9 News.
After the conviction, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called Castillo a “real Colorado hero who died trying to protect others.”
“Kendrick Castillo’s bravery will never be forgotten,” Polis said in a statement, according to NBC News. “While we cannot bring Kendrick back, we can find solace in the fact that the people responsible for this tragic and unthinkable event will be held accountable.”