DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Prosecutors told a jury Thursday that Devon Erickson was a willing participant in the STEM School shooting two years ago that left one student dead and several others injured. Prosecutor George Brauchler, the former District Attorney, began his opening statement by telling the hushed courtroom, “In this room is terror, in this room is every parent’s, every teacher’s worst nightmare.”
Brauchler continued telling those present and those watching online, “Two people came with murder in their heart and a plan to escape accountability.”
It was May 7, 2019, just before 2 p.m. when the attack occurred. Erickson went into a high school classroom and shouted “Nobody f**** move.” Three students did, trying to disarm the gunman. Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old student, was shot and killed in the process.
Alec McKinney, a transgender boy, was also armed in another location and injured several other people. He has now pleaded guilty with a sentence of life plus 38 years. The courtroom heard a chilling 911 call from a teacher.
“I think the shooter is screaming, I think he’s in the room,” the teacher said.
The operator replies, “Okay can you only hear one? Ok, and you’re in your closet right?”
The jurors were shown video of McKinney and Erickson fist bumping and walking down the hall together before the shooting took place. The defense claimed that Erickson had been on drugs, was sleep deprived, neglected and under the influence of McKinney.
“He’s not a monster, he’s not inhuman and he’s not evil,” his lawyer Julia Stancil said.
The defense claimed the then 18-year-old came under the spell of a transgender boy.
“Its about a sensitive and vulnerable kid,” said Stancil. “Devon Erickson gets roped into a psychotic cult play by a schizophrenic, homicidal sick kid named Alec McKinney.”
Erickson’s lawyers claimed their client was forced into taking part under threat by McKinney.
“He didn’t hate, he had no intention to kill,” Stancil told the jury.
Prosecutors insisted earlier that a plot was concocted to make it look like Erickson was forced into taking part.
“At the end of this Alec McKinney is either going to die by suicide or the defendant is going to kill Alec and look like a hero,” they said.
In the end the hero was Kendrick Castillo, who was killed while trying to take the gun away from Erickson. Life has been difficult for Castillo’s parents since losing their son just over two years ago.
After the end of opening statements from each side, John Castillo told reporters it was very hard to listen.
“It’s difficult to hear the twisted augmented perception of the event that took place,” he explained. “When it’s all said again, the truth will be revealed.”
A long parade of witnesses will now begin with the trial expected to last up to four weeks.