Colorado courtroom

Accused Shooter at STEM School Highland Ranch in Denver Pleads Guilty to Murder

The 16-year-old assailant, who took part in a shooting that killed one student and injured eight others, will face a minimum sentence of 40 years in prison.

A 16-year-old who carried out a shooting on STEM School Highland Ranch outside Denver in May 2019 pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Friday. The shooting claimed the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and injured eight others.

Alec McKinney, who pleaded guilty to 16 other counts in Douglas County District Court, took part in the shooting alongside another student, Devon Erickson, according to prosecutors. He says that he was bullied by classmates because he was transgender, leading him to plan the shooting.

Scheduled to be sentenced on May 18, McKinney’s guilty plea comes after his lawyers failed to convince a judge that he should be tried as a juvenile. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years minus earned time, according to The New York Times.

A spokesperson for the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District told the Times that McKinney could be released within 20 to 25 years if he is accepted to a special program for prisoners under the age of 18.

Meanwhile, Erickson has pleaded not guilty to 48 charges connected to the shooting and will appear in court for a hearing in April. If he is tried and convicted, he would face life in prison without the possibility of parole because he was 18 -- and legally an adult -- at the time of the crime.

McKinney has previously told police and lawyers that he targeted students who had made fun of him and said he was disgusting for transitioning into his male identity. He struggled with suicidal and homicidal thoughts for several years, all of which came back to him in the weeks before the shooting, according to affidavits.

Castillo’s parents, who recently filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County School District for failing to act on signs of an upcoming shooting, were present at the hearing on Friday to hear the guilty plea. John Castillo, Kendrick’s father, said he was pleased with the plea deal and was glad he would not have to sit through a trial.

“At the end of the day, no matter what happens in the courtroom, the results are still the same,” Castillo told The Denver Post. “Nobody’s a winner in this."

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

Featured

  • Buffalo Public School District Modernizes Security With New Cameras NVRs

    i-PRO Co., Ltd. (formerly Panasonic Security), a provider of professional security solutions for surveillance and public safety, recently announced that the Buffalo Public School District (BPSD) has modernized its security footprint with i-PRO multi-sensor and 360° fisheye network cameras, and i-PRO NV300 network video recorders (NVR). The BPSD serves 28,000 K-12 students out of 70 facilities in western New York. Read Now

  • Lessons Learned from Past School Shootings

    Two experts are working together and collaborating on new ways school campuses can develop a proactive and comprehensive security plan. For three consecutive years, the U.S has had a record-high number of school shootings resulting in a repetitive cycle of grievances, anger, and frustration. The U.S. had 344 school shootings in 2023 which surpassed the record-breaking number of 308 school shootings in 2022 as reported by K-12 School Shooting Database. Read Now

  • Mother of Michigan School Shooter Found Guilty on Four Counts of Involuntary Manslaughter

    The mother of the teenager who killed four students in an Oxford, Michigan school has been found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter because of the shooting. That’s according to a report from CNN. Read Now

  • Utah State Legislature Funds Gun Detection Technology and Incident Management System in All Public K-12 Schools

    ZeroEyes, the creators of the only AI-based gun detection video analytics platform that holds the US Department of Homeland Security SAFETY Act Designation, and AEGIX Global, a Utah-based provider of industry-leading critical incident management services, recently announced that the Utah State Board of Education has approved a contract to provide the joint solution for all Utah public K-12 schools, including charter schools. Read Now

Webinars