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Convicted teen in STEM School shooting says he and fellow suspect shared 'equal responsibility'

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Posted at 3:59 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 15:37:55-04

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — The teen convicted in the 2019 STEM School shooting in Highlands Ranch testified on Wednesday that his fellow suspect, Devon Erickson, played an equal role in the shooting and that Erickson wasn't forced into participating.

Erickson is on trial this month, faces 48 counts, including 43 felonies, in the case and pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment in January 2020. Two of the 48 counts are sentence enhancers if he is convicted.

Alec McKinney was sentenced last July to life in prison with the possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and more than a dozen other felonies in connection with the shooting. He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole because he was a juvenile when the crimes occurred.

While Erickson's attorneys have argued that McKinney forced Erickson into the shooting — and while McKinney himself had told police a similar story after the shooting — McKinney on Wednesday painted a scenario in which both he and Erickson shared "equal responsibility for what happened," he testified.

Alec McKinney testifies at Devon Erickson's STEM School shooting trial

McKinney said he and Erickson had planned to make it appear that McKinney was forcing him into the shooting.

The teens had filmed a video of McKinney yelling at Erickson to open a gun safe at Erickson's home. McKinney testified that the video was actually the teens' third attempt at filming such a situation, saying the previous two attempts weren't "convincing at all."

Why did the teens film the video? "So it would appear that I forced Devon into doing this," McKinney testified.

McKinney in his testimony also described how the shooting unfolded inside classroom No. 107 at the STEM School.

Erickson initially left the classroom for the school's administrative offices, McKinney said, and McKinney texted him to come help with the shooting "so it would sound moreso like I was forcing him."

When the teens returned to the classroom, McKinney said he "began waiting on Devon to start shooting."

McKinney testified that he saw Erickson grab his guitar case and lock the classroom door. McKinney said Erickson then took a rifle out of the case and said "something along the lines of 'Nobody move.'"

McKinney testified that he also pulled a gun — a handgun — out of his backpack. Around the same time, some students got up and rushed Erickson, McKinney said, and that's when Erickson fired the first gunshot as the students were "pretty close to him."

Brendan Bialy, one of the students that charged at Erickson, testified about how the students, including Castillo, stopped the shooter.

"Kendrick Castillo charges (at) him," Bialy said, "and ends up on the defendant's right side and pushes him up against the wall."

He said Kendrick was delivering blows to the defendant's right side.

"(The defendant) ended up firing one to two rounds," Bialy said. "I believe one of them hit Kendrick."

McKinney said he then began firing shots from the handgun, aiming at students and the ground until the gun ran out of bullets.

Another student tackled McKinney and the two fell into the hallway, as the student tried to disarm McKinney.

McKinney said he eventually went back into the classroom and grabbed a second gun out of his backpack and held the gun to his head. That's when a security guard arrived and told McKinney to drop the gun, which McKinney did.

Erickson's attorneys on cross-examination focused primarily on McKinney's mental state at the time of the shooting and his interviews with police and hospital personnel.

McKinney acknowledged that he told police that he made Erickson open his parents' gun safe and that he held an axe to Erickson, and that he trashed Erickson's house looking for the guns. But McKinney said he "was not being 100% truthful" in his initial interviews with police.

McKinney said, "No one forced anyone into [the shooting]."

"My testimony is about the truth," McKinney said. "Not what I said in any of those interviews."

McKinney's testimony concluded shortly after lunch Wednesday. Testimony from other witnesses was ongoing later Wednesday afternoon.