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Colorado school shooting suspects appear in court to face murder charges

Colorado school shooting suspects appear in court to face murder charges
Devon Erickson, 18, accused in a shooting May 7 at a Colorado charter school that left one classmate dead and eight others wounded, appears in court in Castle Rock, Colo., on May 8. (Joe Amon / Associated Press)

Two students suspected of shooting nine classmates, one fatally, in their Colorado charter school appeared in court Wednesday to face dozens of criminal charges that include murder, attempted murder, theft and arson.

The parents of the teen who was killed in the attack looked on in court before heading to their son's memorial service. Senior Kendrick Castillo was just days from graduating when he was slain while trying to stop one of the gunmen during the May 7 attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, which is not far from the scene of the 1999 Columbine massacre.

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Investigators say Devon Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, used handguns in the assault. Eight students were wounded.

Prosecutors said both would be tried as adults. McKinney's attorney, Ara Ohanian, said she would seek to move his case back to juvenile court.

Court documents are sealed, but charges are listed in electronic court records. Judge Theresa Slade denied the prosecution's request to make some of the documents public but said she would address the issue at the next hearing on June 7.

Erickson looked toward the judge while attorneys discussed the case. He wore a jail uniform and was kept shackled at his wrists and ankles after the judge denied a request to remove them.

McKinney appeared in court after Erickson. He glanced back several times during the hearing toward the bench where his mother was sitting.

Castillo's parents also attended the hearing. His father stared at both defendants.

“It would have been easy for them to say, ‘I'm not going to make it to court today because in less than two hours we’re going to have a memorial service for our son,’” Dist. Atty. George Brauchler said of Castillo’s parents.

Brauchler also revealed that he had asked an outside prosecutor to investigate whether charges should be filed against a private security guard who has been credited with apprehending one of the suspects in a school hallway.

Brauchler did not explain why the security guard would face charges. A law enforcement official told the Associated Press last week that the guard, a former Marine who has not been named, fired his weapon during the shooting.

“This is a witness in the case, and I felt like in the abundance of caution that a decision about the facts related to the security guard needed to be addressed by a separate prosecutor,” Brachler said.

The security guard's attorney, Robert Burk, said last week that his client acted to protect students. Burk did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Wednesday.

A line of Jeeps and trucks stretched along a Highlands Ranch roadway ahead of the service to honor Castillo, who was a Jeep and off-road-vehicle enthusiast. The motorcade was led by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

Castillo and classmates Brendan Bialy and Joshua Jones were credited with helping minimize the bloodshed by charging at one of the suspects in a classroom.

According to Bialy, Castillo sprang into action against the shooter “and immediately was on top of him with complete disregard for his own safety.” Jones said he was shot twice in the leg. Bialy said he was able to take the attacker's weapon.

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Jones, 18, said Tuesday that he is recovering quickly from his wounds, but said emotionally he was “still in a bit of a funk.”

He told reporters during a news conference that he was in the middle of helping to pin down the shooter when he called his mom.

“It was really just something like, ‘Hey, Mom. There's been a school shooting. I've been involved. The authorities are on the way. They're going to get an ambulance, and I'm going to go to the hospital. That's all I got right now for you,’” he said.

All of the wounded students have been released from hospitals.

The shooting happened nearly three weeks after the neighboring town of Littleton marked the 20th anniversary of the attack at Columbine High School that killed 13 people.

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