Colorado STEM school gunman sentenced to life, but eligible for parole

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A Colorado teenager who opened fire at a Denver-area high school last year in what has been described as an ambush was sentenced to life in prison on Friday with the possibility of parole.

It’s unclear when Alec McKinney, now 17, might be eligible for parole. Due to a relatively new state law that deals with minors, it is possible that he may be eligible in about two decades, officials said.

Killed on May 7, 2019, while shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, Kendrick Castillo, 18, was called a hero for acting with others to stop one of the two shooters.

McKinney apologized to the teenager’s parents and other students injured and traumatized by the attack.

“I will never repeat these actions again because the hurt I have caused is just too much for anyone to take,” McKinney said.

Castillo’s father said he could never forgive McKinney.

“I condemn you to hell. I will never forgive you. I hate you, ”said John Castillo, according to NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver.

McKinney was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years for murder and another 38 years on other charges. The judge had to include parole in the sentence because of his age, according to the station.

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A recent state law allows young accused to apply for a program to be eligible for parole after serving 25 years, officials said.

If this program is used and the credits earned in prison apply to that 25-year sentence, there is a possibility that McKinney could apply for this three-year program in as little as 18 years, the district attorney said.

McKinney was 16 at the time of the attack. Judicial documents filed in the case portrayed him as the planner of the attack. He reportedly told police he wanted others to suffer trauma like him.

The attack on the school in South Denver was carried out by McKinney and another suspect. Devon Erickson, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, has also been charged.

He has pleaded not guilty and a trial is scheduled for September. His lawyers have portrayed McKinney as the leader who pressured Erickson to participate.

Because Erickson was an adult at the time of the shooting, if convicted of murder he will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said.

Kendrick Castillo, 18, died throwing himself at the shooter, according to a classmate at STEM School Highlands Ranch in a Denver suburb.Courtesy of John Castillo

Six other people were shot dead by McKinney or Erickson, and two others were shot in error by a security guard in response to the shooting.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock has said he wants life without parole for McKinney, but he understands the law. “It was an ambush against these children,” he said.

George H. Brauchler, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said he respected the judge and the way he approached the sentencing, but wanted more years added to the life sentence.

“The message I wanted to send to this community – and it goes way beyond this community – is that if you get involved in the planning and execution of a mass school shooting, you should expect what the system is trying to take away from you every second of your freedom that you have, ”Brauchler said.

He said the youth accused program adopted by the state legislature weakens the sentencing structure for young murderers.

“Make no mistake, Kendrick Castillo was murdered, but the goal was to murder everyone in that room,” Brauchler said.

John Castillo, Kendrick’s father, said after sentencing that he and his wife would dedicate their lives to activism “to help other families, so they don’t end up where we are,” adding “we don’t wish that on anyone. ”

He said crimes like those committed in high school should be treated as acts of domestic terrorism and people should support law enforcement and not defeat the police.

“Evil entered that room that day, and Kendrick Castillo stepped in and stopped it,” Castillo said.

“People are alive today because of his sacrifice,” he said. “And Kendrick wouldn’t want his mother and I to sink into grief and not take action, and that’s what we plan to do.”

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