STEM School Shooter Testifies During Accused Accomplice’s Trial

A convicted school shooter gave his first public testimony on Tuesday, June 8, during the murder trial of his accused accomplice. The May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colo., left one student dead and eight injured.

During the ongoing murder trial of suspect Devon Erickson, 20, convicted co-defendant Alec McKinney, 18, gave insight into the planning of the attack. McKinney pled guilty to first-degree murder and over a dozen other related charges in February 2020 and is currently serving a life sentence plus 38 years in prison.

During his testimony, McKinney told a Douglas County District Court jury that he and Erickson discussed plans for weeks and explained how the classroom in question was targeted. “It was narrowed down to Devon disliking the classmates he had in that classroom,” said McKinney. “It was the most ideal place because it had the most people he hated, that they would be there at the same time.”

McKinney said that he and Erickson had lists of students that they didn’t like and planned to target. McKinney discussed how they procured the firearms used in the attack and said that Erickson had considered plans of lining his classmates up against the wall and executing them.

McKinney testified that the plan was for Erickson to kill McKinney at the end of the shooting: “The end of the plan, after everyone was dead, he was going to shoot me to make it look like he attempted to save everyone, and ultimately he wanted to come off as the hero,” said McKinney. McKinney said that he agreed to this plan because “I didn’t really care about my life, nor what was said of me after I was gone,” he said on Tuesday.

McKinney said that in the weeks leading up to the shooting, he and Erickson researched the Columbine High School shooting and its perpetrators. He said they found the website of an 18-year-old Florida woman who was obsessed with the Columbine shooting and had recently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“After looking through her public website, we thought we related to the things she was saying there,” McKinney said. “We both related to how all those people were feeling. A detachment from reality, and we felt that; feeling lonely; frustrated with school and peers.”

“Devon and myself were not in a good place in that time, mentally,” McKinney said on Tuesday.

McKinney, who was 16 at the time of the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, was tried as a juvenile and is eligible for parole after 40 years. Erickson, who was 18 during the shooting, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. He faces two first-degree felony murder charges and more than 40 other associated felonies.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at MJones@1105media.com

Featured

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • Unlocking Peace of Mind

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown Read Now

  • Emerging Campus Access Control Solutions

    Emerging solutions in campus access control can mean different things. Usually, we expect the topic to focus on the very latest in door security products and solutions that have just been recently released or are about to be launched. After all, staying up on improvements to keep campuses safer is critical. Plus, it’s always interesting and exciting to learn what’s new and how innovations are going to better protect lives and assets and help the industry be even more successful. Read Now

  • Here’s How Instructional Audio Can Play a Key Role in School Safety

    Ensuring the safety of students and employees is critical in today’s educational environment. While the threat of a school shooting is in the back of everyone’s mind, the truth is there are many possible scenarios that could crop up at any time in classrooms, hallways, and other school spaces—from fights or altercations to a sick child or staff member who requires emergency attention. Read Now

Webinars