CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – Kendrick Castillo died a hero, and now he’s under consideration to be featured in the National Garden of American Heroes. That’s because of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, who recently submitted Castillo’s name for the Trump Administration’s planned statue garden.
Castillo was killed last year when he moved to try to stop two student shooters inside STEM School Highlands Ranch, where he was nearing the end of his senior year. A few other students also tried to stop the violence, and some were injured, but only Castillo lost his life. His classmates say that if it wasn’t for his actions, lots more students might have been hurt.
“This young man saw danger and immediately solved the problem. … We’re told that he lunged at the shooter and grabbed the gun because he had this instinct,” Commissioner Lora Thomas said.
Thomas told CBS4 the U.S. Department of the Interior reached out to Douglas County asking for a nomination for the garden in July. She said it didn’t take long for her to decide that Castillo had to be their choice, and her fellow commissioners agreed. They sent their nomination letter a few weeks later, stating in part Our community continues to grieve the loss of Kendrick’s promising life and we are determined to honor his memory and sacrifice. We believe that the ultimate sacrifice by Kendrick Castillo, that saved the lives of many of his classmates, deserves the recognition and the honor of being included.
“Having a statue of (this) young man who was so courageous is just so grounded in honesty and truth that other kids generations from now can look at that statue and know the courage that this young man had. And that’s something that every child can internalize — and want to be just like Kendrick,” she said.
Thomas said the tragedy at STEM School had a strong impact on her, in part because it brought up memories of the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. She was a Major with the Colorado State Patrol at the time and was involved in the law enforcement response. During STEM, she and the two other members of the county commission came to the command post that was set up in Highlands Ranch after the shooting happened.
“That night I went to bed praying for God for wisdom and help, and the next morning when I woke up I knew that the county had some funds that we could partner with our schools to help make our kids and our grandkids safer,” she said.
After that, the commission allocated $10 million out of their budget to schools for safety upgrades and another $3 million for new school resource officers.
President Donald Trump announced his executive order to create the National Garden of American Heroes on July 4 and since then a task force created to implement his vision has been reaching out to governors and county commissioners nationwide to “submit any heroes they feel should be honored.” In early August the task force said they were getting an overwhelming response. The garden is slated to be built no later than 2026, and it’s planned location is still under consideration. Douglas County Commisioners suggested in their letter that Rocky Mountain National Park should considered as a site.
Anyone who is interested in submitting a nomination for a hero to be featured in the garden should email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locally, STEM School Highlands Ranch has several areas that pay tribute to Castillo’s life on its campus, including a landscaped garden and a spot in the parking lot that’s specially painted — it’s where Castillo used to always park his Jeep.