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Colorado school shooter who survived on diet of cocaine, cough syrup and weed is convicted of murdering hero classmate, 18, who ran at him while he was shooting to save his friends

Posted by 
Daily Mail
Daily Mail
 2021-06-15

A school shooter who killed a heroic teenager who lunged at him to try and save his friends has been convicted of murder.

Devon Erickson, 20, was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Kendrick Castillo, 18, at a court in Denver, Colorado, on Tuesday afternoon just a day-and-a-half after jurors retired to deliberate.

Erickson stood with his hands clasped and a face mask as Tuesday's 48-count indictment was read out, and appeared calm. He was convicted of all charges, including 31 counts of attempted murder - one for each of the students in the classroom he barged into moments before killing Castillo.

He and his accomplice Alec McKinney - who previously admitted the same charges - walked into the STEM School in Highlands Ranch on May 7, 2019 carrying handguns and other weapons hidden in guitar cases. Both killers attended the school at the time.

Students in that room were watching The Princess Bride as part of their British literature studies

Castillo and two friends jumped up from their desks and shoved Erickson against a wall. Erickson fired off several rounds, and fatally struck Castillo, who was later hailed as a hero for his courageous actions.

Erickson is said to have been a chronic drug abuser at the time, with his substance abuse said to have left him unable to think clearly.

He was charged with a total of 48 counts, including 31 counts of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In previous interviews, fellow students say they are angry about red flags they claim were missed in relation to Erickson, and a former student Erickson would bully younger students and had previously made jokes about shooting up the school.

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Devon Erickson is pictured in court in May 2019. He was convicted of murder on Tuesday 
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Erickson is pictured with his hands clasped during Tuesday's sentencing hearing 
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Kendrick Castillo, 18, died protecting his classmates STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver and opened fire in May 2019
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Castillo was hailed a hero in the wake of the May 2019 shooting 
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Maya Elizabeth McKinney aka Alec McKinney, who is transgender, was previously sentenced to life plus 38 years after striking a plea deal which saw him admit to 17 charges
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Students and teachers hold their hands in the air as they exit the scene of the shooting

McKinney, a transgender man who appeared on the court docket as Maya McKinney, was previously sentenced to life plus 38 years after striking a plea deal which saw him admit to 17 charges. He's eligible for parole because he was a juvenile at the time of the attack.

He initially claimed to have forced Erickson into opening his parents' gun safe and to snort a line of cocaine, with Erickson's lawyers using that behavior to try and claim that their client acted under duress.

McKinney, has since said that Erickson's behavior was voluntary, and rubbished claims that his accomplice was forced to accompany him on the shooting spree.

Last Friday, defense toxicologist Wanda Guidry testified that Erickson's drug abuse, malnourishment, and long-term sleep deprivation and insomnia meant he 'couldn't think, concentrate or understand' what was going on on the day of the shooting.

'I believe it created psychiatric symptoms ... disruption in mood, behavior and thinking,' Guidry said of the drugs found in Erickson´s system hours after the shooting. 'He had a very difficult time figuring out or thinking of what he needed to do, what was right or what he wanted to do.'

Defense attorneys rested their case Friday without testimony from Erickson.

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The May 2019 shooting took place in Colorado's STEM School in Highlands Ranch
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Students are evacuated from the Recreation Center at Northridge in Highlands Ranch after a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7, 2019
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Terrified students were evacuated from the school after shots were fired

Chief Deputy District Attorney George Brauchler argued that Erickson agreed to participate in the attack as long as it looked like he was pressured into it and or could emerge as a hero by killing McKinney.

Brauchler said the students' concocted 'victim-hero' strategy unraveled after Castillo rushed Erickson when he pulled out a gun inside a darkened classroom as students watched a movie.

'There is no evidence, zero evidence, of fear,' Brauchler said. 'There is only evidence of a willing partnership.'

Erickson's gun went off, Castillo was killed and others tackled him, he said.

Their other possible scenario, in which McKinney killed himself, was stymied after an armed security guard apprehended him, Brauchler said.

Erickson's lawyer, Julia Stancil, said her client was manipulated into joining the attack by McKinney, a new friend who preyed on him during a family crisis.

Castillo was the only person who died that day, but eight others were injured.

Mike Pritchard, who was the school's director of information technology at the time, testified that he heard the commotion and saw Erickson being held down and Castillo on his stomach, The Denver Post reported.

'At that time, he wasn't responsive, like he was trying to say something, but it wasn't anything I could actually understand,' Pritchard said of Castillo. 'He was responsive and breathing.'

The harrowing texts a teen sent his father as two shooters stormed his Denver high school

The father of one of the Denver high school students forced to hide in his classroom when two shooters opened fire has shared the harrowing text messages he received from his teenage son as the gunfire rang out.

Eldon Elledge's teenage son immediately texted his father when the alarms sounded and they were placed on lockdown at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver on May 7, 2019.

His terrified son's messages became increasingly frantic as he told his father he could hear gunshots, was hiding in a classroom that had four separate entrances and that he loved him 'just in case'.

Elledge shared the messages on Facebook on Wednesday and described it as 'the scariest moment of my life'.

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'Dad the school is on an unexpected lockdown. They've got sirens playing all in the school and the radios are going crazy,' his son said in his first message.

'I'm in the P.E. room with four different entrances. Everyone is freaking out. It's not a drill I'm actually scared. My heart is racing. I'm actually freaking out, I'm really scared.'

Elledge replied to his son and pleaded with him to remain calm and 'remember your training' for an active shooter situation.

'Dad the announcements are going crazy. The speakers are telling everyone to get out of sight. The teacher thinks somebody is in the school,' his son wrote.

Elledge told his son he was on his way to the school, adding: 'But remain calm, breath slowly and pay attention. Listen to all sounds. Breath short quite breathes and listen to anything off.'

His son's messages became increasingly more terrified as the teenager described what was unfolding inside.

'Okay. There is a bunch of yelling in the hallway,' he wrote.

'There is gunshots. Dad. Gunshots. Oh my god. The school is flooded with police. Gunshots.

'Dad there is no where to hide, it's an open room.

'All I hear is yelling and screaming. I can't call the teacher won't let me. What do I do dad I'm freaking out. The screaming has stopped.

'Dad I love you, just in case.'

Elledge told his son he loved him as well before adding that a lot of children were coming out of the school and repeatedly asking where he was.

'Somebody is dead. Somebody died,' his son wrote replied.

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