Colorado School Shooting Suspect to Be Tried as an Adult

(CN) – A 16-year-old Colorado student accused of orchestrating the mass shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch this past May that left one student dead and eight others wounded will be charged as an adult, a judge ruled Wednesday.

“Based on the totality of the evidence before it, the court finds that it has not been proved that the juvenile and the community would be better served by transferring this case to juvenile court,” wrote Judge Jeffrey Holmes in his 7-page order Wednesday. “Instead it has been established that the case should proceed in the criminal division of the district court.”

District Attorney George Brauchler formally charged 16-year-old Alec McKinney as an adult a week after the May 7 attack, though his case remains sealed to the public.

Prosecutors say that McKinney and suspected co-conspirator Devon Erickson entered a British literature class at 1:51 p.m. on May 7, as the students watched the movie “The Princess Bride.” Armed with a Glock 21, a Beretta M9, a Ruger 10/22 rifle, and a Taurus revolver, Erickson ordered his classmates not to move.

Friends and community members left flowers, stuffed animals, and cans of Coca-Cola outside STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado in honor of Kendrick Castillo, who was killed trying to thwart a May 7, 2019, shooting at the school. (Amanda Pampuro / CNS)

But Kendrick Castillo, 18, and others charged McKinney and Erickson to protect the class. Castillo was shot and killed. McKinney attempted to take his own life afterward but was unable to take the safety setting off the weapon.

“Because of the serious nature of the crimes alleged here, there is little difference between the procedures that will govern the progress of the case irrespective of its assignment to adult or juvenile court,” Holmes wrote.

Holmes stressed that in either court, McKinney would be given a fair trial with the opportunity to contest the evidence presented against him. Since the reverse transfer hearing was not a trial, Holmes noted it was “puzzling that the court is being asked to determine which sentencing scheme should apply even before the case has been tried and guilt determined.”

He continued: “The court will stress that no trial has occurred and no guilt has been proved. The evidence before the court at this stage of the proceedings, however, indicates that McKinney’s actions were not spontaneous, but purposeful and planned.”

Brauchler applauded the order to try McKinney as an adult and said his office will move toward a jury trial “without any additional delay.”

“On behalf of the many, many victims and our community, I am satisfied and pleased that the court agreed that this mass shooting case should be resolved in adult court,” Brauchler said in a statement. “I am grateful to the victims and their families for the patience and understanding they have shown as they navigate a challenging and often-times slow justice system. My office will continue to do all that we can to support them during this difficult time in their lives.”

Public defender Ara Ohanian, who represented McKinney, did not respond to an inquiry in time for press.

McKinney faces two counts of first-degree murder and 31 counts of attempted murder and will be arraigned Dec. 16. Colorado law prohibits the death penalty for anyone under the age of 18.

Co-defendant Erickson, 18, is scheduled to appear for arraignment before Judge Therese Slade on Dec. 6. It is not clear how either defendant will plead.

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