Judge Rules There Is Probable Cause To Charge One Alleged STEM School Shooter On All Counts, Including 1st-Degree Murder

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David Zalubowski/AP
A Douglas County, Colo., Sheriffs Department deputy walks past the doors to the STEM Highlands Ranch school early Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Alec McKinney was the ringleader and planner of the May attack at STEM School Highlands Ranch that injured eight other students and killed one, prosecutors told a judge Monday.

Between McKinney’s Snapchat messages and a lengthy interview he gave law enforcement in the hours after the shooting, prosecutors argued that enough evidence existed to charge him with 43 felony counts, including first-degree murder.

Judge Jeffrey Holmes agreed.

McKinney, who was 16 at the time of the attack, told police he was homicidal and wanted classmates to “feel fear” because they bullied him. McKinney is biologically a girl, but is transgender and identifies as a boy.

His co-defendant, Devon Erickson, was in court a couple of months ago and faces similar charges in the shooting.

Prosecutors and public defenders are now wrangling about whether McKinney should be tried in juvenile or adult court. 

Defense attorneys seek to build a case that McKinney is mentally ill — that “voices inside” told him to cut himself and to shoot up the school.

They showed a clip of a surveillance video of McKinney's attempt to commit suicide in the seconds after the shooting, but he didn’t know how to remove the safety and so it didn’t work. He was arrested moments later. Authorities pulled bullets out of his sweatpants.

“Alec plan was to die,” said Ara Ohanian, a public defender assigned to McKinney’s case.

Throughout Monday's proceedings, McKinney, clad in khakis and an oversized gray sweatshirt, showed no emotion. He didn’t look back at his weeping mother in the front row and didn’t look at the rows of students or Castillo’s parents, who were seated behind the prosecution.

Ohanian also talked about McKinney’s family problems, how his dad was violent with his mother when McKinney was a child. His dad was deported to Mexico in 2010.

Defense attorneys told the judge McKinney’s mother may be called up as a witness in the juvenile transfer hearing.

On Tuesday, defense attorneys plan on calling at least seven witnesses — including several who have psychologically treated McKinney at the juvenile detention center.

Ohanian tried to close the courtroom during what may be sensitive testimony, but the judge disagreed.