STEM School Highlands Ranch Marks Shooting Anniversary; Family Of Charged Student Issues Statement

May 7, 2020
STEM Highlands RanchSTEM Highlands RanchDavid Zalubowski/AP
Bouquet of flowers sit on the sign outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch late Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the parents of one of the shooters.

A year ago today, one student was killed in the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting and eight others were injured.

Students and staff planned to observe the day together with acts of kindness at the school, but COVID-19 precautions make physical togetherness impossible. Instead, the school is asking people to share their acts of service this week with the hashtag #STEMShares.

“We decided to move forward and make it a virtual week where we would invite our students, our staff, families. We were also going to invite the community to take part,” said Nicole Bostel, communications manager at STEM School Highlands Ranch. 

Some families have helped homebound neighbors or “adopted” a graduating senior to shower them with gifts and notes. One 6th grader made a video tutorial to help others sew cloth masks, which they can then donate to first responders. The school has also provided a list of local businesses that supported them after the shooting and have encouraged people to write thank-you notes and use their services.

“It means so much to be able to give back to those that were there for us on that day and even following,” Bostel said. “The opportunity for us to spread kindness I think is just so important for our students and our staff and our families in the healing process.”

Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo was killed during the shooting. The student was involved in the school’s robotics team and so was his father, John Castillo. He told Colorado Matters in September that he was proud of the legacy his son leaves behind. 

“It brings me joy knowing that he was a good leader and a hero for this school and the community,” he said. The anniversary of the shooting is one of the most difficult days of his life, John Castillo tweeted Thursday.

Since the attack, Douglas County Commissioners have invested millions of dollars in school safety and mental health resources.

Two students have been charged with the shooting last May. They hid guns in a guitar case and a backpack, authorities said. The juvenile involved in the shooting has pleaded guilty and his mandatory minimum sentence is life with the possibility of parole after serving 40 years. The other suspect, Devon Erickson, has pleaded not guilty

In a statement given exclusively to CPR News on Thursday, Erickson's parents said they are praying for both the Castillo family and the wider STEM Highlands Ranch community. "We have struggled with when and how to respond as a family, but today we feel compelled to express our heart-felt sorrow to everyone who has been impacted by the tragic shooting. Our family has been paralyzed, shocked, and immensely saddened by this horrific event and its consequences."

CPR News has reached out to the Castillo family for a response.

CPR's Justice Reporter Allison Sherry contributed to this story.

CPR is interested in hearing from other STEM School shooting parents about how the year anniversary is affecting them. To share your story, please reach out to Allison Sherry.