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Suspect found guilty of murder, all other charges in STEM School shooting in Highlands Ranch

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 21:32:48-04

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A jury on Tuesday found Devon Erickson guilty of 46 charges, including first-degree murder, in the 2019 STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, which left one student dead and others wounded.

The jury returned the verdicts about 1:30 p.m. after beginning deliberations Tuesday morning. The arguments in the trial got underway on May 27.

Erickson now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. His sentencing date has been scheduled for Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m.

MORE: Click here for Denver7's full coverage of the STEM School shooting

Kendrick Castillo, a senior student at the school, died in the shooting. Castillo and several other students rushed Erickson and took him down, halting the shooting and saving other students' lives, officials have said.

Family, victims, prosecutors discuss reaction to conviction of second STEM shooting suspect

"This day is justice for him," John Castillo said of his son, Kendrick, after the verdicts were announced.

Prosecutors throughout the trial called Castillo and the other students heroes.

"We'll never quit missing him," John Castillo said. "We'll never quit honoring him."

Erickson's charges included two sentence enhancers. Along with first-degree murder, the charges included attempted murder, conspiracy, burglary, and arson. Erickson was also charged with two misdemeanors.

Erickson's attorneys had argued that he was pressured into participating in the May 7, 2019 shooting by his fellow teen suspect, Alec McKinney, who last year pleaded guilty and received a sentenced of life in prison.

But prosecutors said Erickson and McKinney were partners in a "shared scheme" to carry out the shooting, and McKinney — despite initially telling police that he had pressured Erickson — also testified that he and Erickson were equal partners in the shooting.

The prosecution in its closing argument Monday pointed to evidence that showed Erickson and McKinney had staged a Snapchat video in which McKinney was yelling at Erickson to open a gun safe at his home on the day of the shooting.

McKinney testified that the teens had filmed two prior versions of the video but did not think it would be believable.

Prosecutors also pointed to friendly Instagram messages between the teens and video that showed them giving each other a fist bump — evidence, according to the prosecution, that proved Erickson was going along with the plan to carry out a shooting.

Prosecutor George Brauchler, who was district attorney when the shooting happened, called Tuesday's outcome justice.

"But I'm going to go home and have dinner with my kids and hug them," Brauchler said. "But John and Maria [Castillo] are going to drive to and talk to a headstone ... That is sobering. We really can't bring justice to what happened to John and Maria and Kendrick."

District Attorney John Kellner said the killers' names, in the end, will be forgotten.

"The name we remember in this community is Kendrick Castillo's name," Kellner said. "We remember all the brave young students who sprang into action to defend their own lives and to defend their friends. And we will never forget Kendrick Castillo, who made that ultimate sacrifice."