‘Hero’ was lone death in Colorado shoot­ing

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY KATHLEEN FOODY, P. SOLOMON BANDA AND NI­CHOLAS RICCARDI Riccardi re­ported from Den­ver. Associated Press writ­ers Dan Elliott and Colleen Slevin in Den­ver and AP re­searchers Monika Mathur in Wash­ing­ton and Rhonda Shafner in New York con­trib­uted to this r

HIGH­LANDS RANCH, COLO.

When a gun­man burst into his high school class­room, Ken­drick Castillo did not hes­i­tate.

The 18-year-old im­me­di­ately charged, pin­ning the at­tacker to the wall be­fore he was fa­tally shot pro­tect­ing class­mates, wit­nesses said. As Castillo charged, so did two other stu­dents. One of them, Bren­dan Bialy, who has signed up to join the Marines, wres­tled the gun from the shooter’s hand, and the stu­dents sub­dued him.

A sec­ond shooter was captured by an armed se­cu­rity guard.

Au­thor­i­ties said these acts of brav­ery helped min­i­mize the blood­shed from the at­tack, which also wounded eight peo­ple.

“We’re go­ing to hear about very heroic things that have taken place at the school,” Dou­glas County Sher­iff Tony Spur­lock said Wed­nes­day.

The at­tack­ers were iden­ti­fied by law en­force­ment of­fi­cials as 18-year-old Devon Erick­son and a younger stu­dent who is a ju­ve­nile. They al­legedly walked into the STEM School High­lands Ranch through an en­trance with­out metal de­tec­tors and opened fire in two class­rooms.

Be­cause the at­tack hap­pened only miles from Columbine High School and just weeks after the shoot­ing’s 20th an­niver­sary, ques­tions quickly arose about whether it was in­spired by the 1999 mas­sacre.

Castillo sprang into ac­tion against the shooter “and im­me­di­ately was on top of him with com­plete dis­re­gard for his own safety,” said Bialy, a close friend.

A mem­ber of the school’s ro­bot­ics club and a re­lent­less tin­kerer, Castillo had an in­fec­tious smile and gen­tle sense of hu­mor, ac­cord­ing to friends. He worked part­time at a lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany that had of­fered him a job after an in­tern­ship be­cause he was such a stand­out em­ployee.

“To find he went down as a hero, I’m not sur­prised. That’s ex­actly who Ken­drick was,” said Rachel Short, pres­i­dent of the com­pany, Bac­cara.

Ce­cilia Bedard, 19, had known Castillo since ele­men­tary school and said he was al­ways friendly, mod­est and ex­cited to help peo­ple. He made a point of al­ways join­ing his fa­ther at Knights of Colum­bus fundraisers and bingo nights.

Bialy smiled as he re­counted the strug­gle with the shooter to re­porters, say­ing that he wanted to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive. “They com­pletely and ut­terly failed in a mat­ter of half a minute,” he said of the at­tack­ers. He added, “What I saw yes­ter­day was the ab­so­lute best of peo­ple.”

Bialy would not iden­tify the third stu­dent who helped sub­due the gun­man, but the fam­ily of Joshua Jones put out a state­ment say­ing he was shot twice while dis­arm­ing one of the at­tack­ers.

The se­cu­rity guard who de­tained the sec­ond armed sus­pect was em­ployed by Boss High Level Pro­tec­tion, a com­pany started by a for­mer SWAT team leader who re­sponded to the Columbine shoot­ing. The owner, Grant Whi­tus, told The Associated Press the se­cu­rity guard is a for­mer Marine who ran to the area of the shoot­ings and con­fronted one of the armed stu­dents in a hall­way.

The guard drew his weapon and ap­pre­hended the per­son, Whi­tus said.

“He doesn’t even re­al­ize how many lives he saved by stop­ping a school shoot­ing,” Whi­tus said.

Both sus­pects were stu­dents at the school, and they were not pre­vi­ously known to au­thor­i­ties, Spur­lock said.

Erick­son made his first court ap­pear­ance Wed­nes­day and kept his head down. His black hair, streaked with pur­ple dye, cov­ered his face. The ju­ve­nile sec­ond at­tacker was due to ap­pear be­fore the judge im­me­di­ately after­ward. For­mal charges were ex­pected to be filed by Fri­day.

The shoot­ing took place ex­actly a week after a gun­man killed two stu­dents and wounded four at the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina at Char­lotte. In that case as well, one of the fa­tal­i­ties was a stu­dent who charged the at­tacker.

The Colorado at­tack un­folded came nearly three weeks after neigh­bor­ing Lit­tle­ton marked the an­niver­sary of the Columbine at­tack that killed 13 peo­ple. The two schools are sep­a­rated by about 7 miles.

NICK COTE NYT

Par­ents pick up their chil­dren at STEM School High­lands Ranch after a shoot­ing Tues­day in High­lands Ranch, Colo. Two sus­pects who car­ried out the armed at­tack have been iden­ti­fied as Devon Erick­son and a ju­ve­nile fe­male.

Ken­drick Castillo

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