(CBS4) – A judge handed STEM School shooter Devon Erickson, 20, a life sentence on Friday in Douglas County Court following emotional testimony from victims, including the parents of the student considered a hero for charging at the gunman. Since Erickson was 18 years old and an adult at the time of the shooting, he faced a mandatory life sentence.
Erickson was convicted in June of all 46 charges against him for his role in the May 7, 2019, STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting which left Kendrick Castillo dead and eight others wounded. Castillo was among the group of students trying to stop the gunmen.
The judge imposed hundreds of additional years in prison in addition to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Alec McKinney, the second student involved in the shooting, testified on behalf of the prosecution in Erickson’s trial. McKinney is already serving a life sentence. McKinney, who was 16 years old at the time of shooting, could become eligible for parole after about 20 years in prison under a program for juvenile offenders.
Before the judge’s ruling, Erickson displayed little emotion as he sat with a face mask on and a prison jumpsuit on as victims and their families testified in the courtroom. That included STEM School students, teachers and parents.
Nykiah Thomas one of the parents whose child was shot. Before asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence for Erickson, she described her daughter being in Algebra class when the gunmen stormed in and shot her in the lower part of her body.
“What I remember from that day was her calling me and telling me she was shot and she did not know how many times because both of her legs were bleeding,” Thomas said. “The doctor told her that they would not remove the bullet because it was too close to her fibular artery.”
Several students testified that they have suffered from PTSD since the attack. One told the judge she’s sure that Erickson and McKinney’s intention was “to murder hundreds of students.”
Kendrick Castillo’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, talked about how the shooter took everything from them.
“He was my life, my best friend, I loved him more than life itself. If I could trade places with Kendrick, I would because he had so much to live for,” said Maria Castillo. “There are no words that I can describe the way I feel. I have hate, anger, pain, sadness… all emotions mixed. So many sleepless nights, still waiting for Kendrick to come home.”
“No one can really imagine what our pain is like, we get invited to cookouts with our neighbors, and we agree that we are going to go, and then at the last minute we just don’t show up. We try to be so strong, but life is never the same,” said John Castillo.
“I heard the words, ‘Kendrick didn’t make it’ and everything froze, I fell to my knees and I haven’t been the same since,” said student Alison Thompson.
“I know what it’s like to call your mom and you don’t know whether you are going to die or not. I know what it’s like to get phantom pains in your leg, because that’s where you were shot, twice, by someone you thought you knew,” said student Jeff Jones.