DENVER — A former high school student convicted of first degree murder and other charges for a 2019 shooting attack inside a suburban Denver high school that killed one student and injured eight others is set to be sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole on Friday.
Devon Erickson was convicted in June of all 46 charges against him, including murder in the death of Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old senior hailed as a hero for trying to stop the attack on a classroom at STEM School Highlands Ranch south of Denver. Eight other students were injured.
Prosecutors said Erickson, now 20, partnered with fellow student Alec McKinney in the May 7, 2019, shooting. Since Erickson was 18 and an adult at the time of the shooting, he faces a mandatory life sentence.
McKinney, who was 16 and a juvenile at the time of the shooting, was sentenced to life last year but could become eligible for parole after about 20 years in prison under a program for juvenile offenders.
Friday’s sentencing hearing allows victims and their families to tell the court about what they’ve suffered in the continuing aftermath of the attack.
Erickson and McKinney targeted a classroom of high school students who were sitting in the dark, watching a movie at the end of their senior year. The two entered through separate doors to maximize the number of students they could kill, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that Erickson and McKinney concocted a “victim-hero” plan in which McKinney would either kill himself or be killed by Erickson.
The shootings stopped when Castillo and two other students, Joshua Jones and Brendan Bialy, charged Erickson, whose gun jammed after he fired four times. McKinney was apprehended by a school security guard.
Defense attorneys argued that Erickson was pressured into participating by McKinney, who testified against Erickson after pleading guilty last year. The defense also suggested that Castillo was accidentally shot as he pushed Erickson against a wall.
Despite the mandatory life term for Erickson, prosecutors asked that a report be prepared that recommends the sentence and summarizes the evidence presented at trial. That information could help deter a future governor who might possibly consider clemency for Erickson, according to District Attorney John Kellner.
After the shooting, McKinney told investigators that he planned the attack for weeks and intended to target classmates who repeatedly mocked him because he was transgender, according to court documents.
At his sentencing hearing last year, McKinney said he did not want leniency and urged anyone planning a school shooting to get help. But he also suggested the shooting was Erickson’s idea.