The surviving parents of a high school senior sued the school where he was shot and killed in 2019.
(CN) — The parents of an 18-year-old shot and killed weeks before graduating at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado sued the school on Thursday, the eve of the murder’s second anniversary.
Kendrick Castillo was shot and killed on May 7, 2019 after charging at two students who turned guns on an English class. Eight other students were wounded.
According to the 10-page lawsuit filed in Douglas County District Court, the school failed to “properly respond to the ever-present and foreseeable risk of a school shooting as well as the multiple specific warnings of a school shooting at STEM that preceded the death of Kendrick.”
Kendrick’s parents, John and Marie Castillo, cited violations of the Claire Davis School Safety Act, a state law passed after its 17-year-old namesake was shot and killed at Arapahoe High School in 2013.
In the months leading up to the shooting, the lawsuit contends staff received an anonymous phone call from a parent who, according to the complaint, warned “STEM is a ‘high-pressure environment’ and students are ‘susceptible to copycatting’ resulting in a ‘perfect storm’ for a ‘repeat of Columbine and Arapahoe.’”
The school ignored more explicit warning signs pertaining to then 17-year-old Alec McKinney, who pleaded guilty to charges of first degree murder and attempted murder for the attack. In July 2020, McKinney was sentenced to life in prison with parole plus 38 years.
According to the complaint, the school was aware of McKinney’s disciplinary history, including drug use and self-harming for which he was hospitalized, but failed to intervene.
Eight days before the attack, an anonymous user edited the school’s Wikipedia page on suicide and shooting prevention to read, “Do they work? We shall see.”
In the weeks leading up to the attack, McKinney and alleged accomplice Devon Erickson broadcast their plans on Snapchat. On the day of the shooting, McKinney and Erickson uploaded videos to the platform as they broke open Erickson’s father’s gun safe.
“McKinney and Erickson returned to the school, unobserved by any staff, and entered through the Middle School entrance, unchecked, with no questions asked and no screening of the backpack or guitar case,” the lawsuit claimed. “No person from STEM challenged, stopped, or in any way monitored McKinney and Erickson’s re-entrance into the school, even after the multiple warnings to STEM that there might be a school shooting.”
Facing dozens of felony charges, including first-degree murder, Erickson’s jury trial begins on May 24.
The Castillo family requests attorneys fees and damages to cover funeral expenses and are represented by Greenwood Village attorney Dan Caplis.
“Our hearts continue to be with our STEM family – we shall never forget,” said Paula Hans, spokeswoman for Douglas County Public Schools. “We are aware of the recent filing by the Castillo family. The Douglas County School District does not comment on active litigation and will have no comment to make outside of the court proceedings.”