CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A Colorado teenager charged in a school
shooting that killed one of his classmates was pressured into
participating by a fellow student with a grudge who had recently
befriended him, his lawyer said Tuesday.
The claim came during a hearing to determine whether Devon
Erickson, 19, will stand trial for the May 7 shooting at STEM
School Highlands Ranch in suburban Denver.
After co-defendant Alec McKinney, 16, insisted he was going to
carry out the attack, Erickson went to the school nurse in a
failed attempt to avoid it, but McKinney threatened to go ahead
anyway and kill his friends and also threatened to hurt him,
defense lawyer Julia Stancil said.
Erickson sat next to his lawyers and watched closely as Douglas
County Sheriff's Detective Brian Pereira testified at the start
of the three-day hearing that revealed some new details
surrounding the shooting.
Erickson and McKinney are charged with murder and attempted
murder in the shooting that killed Kendrick Castillo, 18, and
injured eight others. They have not entered pleas to the charges.
Authorities say the students entered a classroom through
separate doors with guns taken from Erickson's house and opened
fire with at least 29 people inside. A private security guard
also injured one of the eight students when he fired at a
sheriff's lieutenant in a hallway during the confusion,
Castillo was one of the students who rushed Erickson in the
classroom, along with Joshua Jones and Brendan Bialy. Castillo's
parents watched the proceedings from the front row of the
courtroom packed with members of the school community.
Erickson had said he surrendered his handgun after being tackled
by the three students, according to previously released
summaries of police interviews with the suspects.
However, Pereira testified Tuesday that Bialy told investigators
there was a struggle for the gun, and he was able to pry the
weapon away from Erickson after punching him several times.
Bialy also told investigators Erickson had pointed the gun at
However, no other students reported that Erickson pointed the
gun at anyone in particular. One student told investigators
Castillo charged Erickson before he could finish warning people
not to move and his gun went off as soon as he pushed Erickson
into the wall, making it seem like the firing was an accident,
Stancil pointed out.
Pereira also said three spent bullet casings were found on the
floor near Erickson, and one was found in his gun after an
apparent malfunction. Erickson previously told police the impact
of three students rushing him caused his gun to fire.
Erickson also told investigators McKinney forced him to
participate in the shooting by threatening him with a gun and an
ax. But investigators did not find evidence corroborating that,
according to Pereira.
An October hearing has been scheduled for McKinney, who is
charged as an adult. His attorneys have said they plan to ask a
judge to move the case back to juvenile court.