LITTLETON, Colo. — March 14, 2023 should have been Kendrick Castillo's 22nd birthday.
“Who knows where we would be today?" asked Kendrick's father, John. "A beautiful beach somewhere enjoying ourselves. Maybe in the mountains, you know, in his Jeep four wheeling. Maybe a group of his friends over at our house enjoying a meal.”
Instead, John and Maria Castillo were at Seven Stones Botanical Garden Cemetery, where their 18-year-old son was buried.
“This should have never happened," said his mother, Maria, tearfully. “He should be burying me, not the other way around."
Kendrick was killed on May 7, 2019, when he rushed one of the school shooters at STEM School Highlands Ranch and saved countless lives.
“I don't want a hero. I want him with me," Maria said. “We deserve to have him with us here today.”
“We want to remember him. We want people not to forget him. But our system says otherwise, and that's a shame," said John. "He paid the ultimate price protecting people, saving lives."
His parents described Kendrick as full of joy and love, who already made a difference in the world as a teenager, and would have continued to do so.
“He never had a bad day, until the day that he lost his life," John said. “He was genuine. You just don't see that these days.”
In a lawsuit filed by the Castillo's in 2021, the family alleges that STEM School Highlands Ranch had a duty to maintain a safe environment for the students because of the Claire Davis School Safety Act. The suit claims the school breached that duty in a number of ways, causing the wrongful death of Kendrick.
Some of the breaches listed in the lawsuit include the school failing to take steps necessary to protect the school and their students from a school shooting, and failing to adequately investigate warnings about the planned attack.
A new complaint filed in February shows the school renewed its request from the summer of 2021 to dismiss the case. The motion was granted, and STEM School Highlands Ranch was ordered to pay $387,000 to the Castillo family. The money does not mean the school has "admitted liability or confessed judgement," but once the funds are deposited, the Castillo's claims become moot and a trial would be vacated.
“It's been ruled moot due to a ridiculous case law that doesn't pertain to shootings, but it's a way of silencing us," John said.
However, the Castillos refused the money.
“There's no amount of money that Kendrick's life is worth," said John. “We're pursuing truth and justice to preserve life for other people... He's not here to fight for school safety, to make things better. We have to do that to honor him.”
The Castillos said releasing more information to the public about the details surrounding the shooting would shock and disgust Coloradans.
"If you have children, you will want something better for them," John said about what he claims to have learned through evidence. “We can't let somebody cover things up with lies. That's why we're where we're at. And someday you'll get to hear the truth that we've discovered.”
A statement released by the attorneys behind the Castillo family said the family wants to share what they have learned about what led up to the school shooting with the public "so that all schools can learn the lessons from the STEM shooting and be safer moving forward."
The statement continues to say the Castillo family intends to ask the Colorado Appellate Court to allow a trial.
Once the law allows the Castillos to share what they have learned with the public, the family plans on doing so.
Denver7 reached out to STEM School Highlands Ranch, and received the following response:
The Court appointed a Special Master to determine what information should remain confidential and what the Castillos may share publicly. That Court-ordered process is getting underway. STEM is hopeful this will benefit the shared goal of helping protect students today and in the future.
As you can imagine, school safety is our top priority. With the release of certain documents, vital information and details about our current safety practices would be made public, leaving our students and staff vulnerable. It is standard practice across all schools that specifics about safety measures inside of the school are not made public. Additionally, some of the documents include information about students who were not involved in the incident on May 7th, and releasing their information would be unfair and violate their privacy.
We trust in the Special Master, who the judge appointed, will operate in the best interest of both the Castillos and STEM as we reach a resolution that satisfies both parties.
Our community is still healing from the events of May 7th, and STEM is committed to ensuring that we continue that process forward. We have made great strides with the expansion of the Center for Strength and our collaborative efforts in bringing more mental health support to our students, staff, and our community.
Prior to the start of the Castillo's lawsuit, the statutory amount was offered to the Castillo family. Since the judge's ruling, the money has been put into a trust and is available to the Castillo family if they choose to accept it.