HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — On the same day mourners gather to remember a young hero, two schoolmates accused in the mass shooting that killed him are due in court.
Devon Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, are expected to hear the charges against them in a Colorado court Wednesday.
The two students from STEM School Highlands Ranch face murder and attempted murder charges, local district attorney George Brauchler said. It’s not yet clear whether Alec will be charged as an adult.
In the eight days since gunfire erupted in the school, killing one student and wounding eight others, a spate of new information has emerged about one of the suspects, the allegations against the school and the high school senior who lost his life protecting others.
Hundreds of Jeeps will arrive for slain hero’s memorial
Kentrick Castillo spent his final moments trying to stop the attack, classmates said. He was killed as he lunged toward a gunman, just days before he was supposed to graduate.
“Because of what he did, others are alive, and I thank God for that,” said his father John Castillo, who lost his only child.” But there’s another part of you that wishes he just turned and ran, retreated, hid.”
On Wednesday, hundreds of supporters are gathering at a “celebration of life” for Kendrick at Cherry Hills Community Church.
They include more than 600 Jeep drivers paying their respects to the slain 18-year-old, who was an avid Jeep enthusiast, CNN affiliate KCNC reported.
“As soon as we heard that Kendrick was a Jeeper, it kind of spread like wildfire throughout the Jeep community,” Colorado Jeep Girls founder Catherine Fanaro told KCNC.
Fanaro said she got approval for 600 Jeepers to participate in the memorial procession, but more than 800 said they planned to attend.
The teen’s memorial service includes a full police motorcade. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said this is the first time the department has provided a formal police motorcade for a civilian, but said it wanted to do so to honor Castillo’s courageous act.
School director refuses to answer bullying claims against gunman
Erickson, the older of the two suspects, is a bully who joked about shootings and threatened other students for years, former friend Kevin Cole said.
“He would just get really close and kind of hunch himself over your shoulder as you were sitting down, and he would just whisper in your ear, ‘Don’t come to school tomorrow’ and just kind of crack a smile and walk back to his seat,” said Kevin, 16.
Kevin’s brother Brian, 18, said he was verbally bullied by Erickson and often complained to the STEM school administration — as often as every other week.
“Here’s what’s happening. Nothing’s changing,” Brian recalled saying. “If anything, it’s getting worse.”
Brian said administrators always promised to take care of the situation, but apparently never did.
The school’s executive director, Penny Eucker, would not answer CNN’s questions about the bullying claims.
“We’re focused on our children right now,” Eucker said as she was walking to her car.
Eucker also declined to answer questions about why the school decided to sue a parent for defamation after the parent made an array of claims against the school in December.
“That’s for the attorneys,” Eucker said.
The parent cited an alleged bomb threat and student clashes as evidence that the school could become the site of another Columbine-style attack, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
The parent, who did not want to be identified, also made about a dozen other allegations against the school, including a claim that “money is being sent to China and Mexico.”
Students are slowly returning to class
A week after the deadly attack, students at the K-12 school are easing their way back to their regular class schedules.
Elementary-aged students are back to school for a half day Wednesday, according to a letter sent to parents. “Mental health support staff will be available onsite,” the school said.
Students from 6th through 12th grades can come back Wednesday to pick up personal items left behind, though some belongings “will not be accessible due to law enforcement restrictions,” the school said.
Secondary students will return to class on a modified schedule starting Thursday.
But the school stressed that families can make their own decisions about returning to school.
“We want to respect the healing process for each of our community members,” the school said.