CJ 266 Unit 5
Purdue University Global
Violent incidents have been increasingly covered by the news media in the last 2 decades, especially such incidents of school violence, workplace violence and mass shootings. There has been an increasing amount of such incidents in the last several years, especially that of mass shootings and school shootings. I have chosen to analyze and describe one such incident of school violence that has happened within the last month and involving two offenders.
The shooting incident, which happened approximately 7 miles from the Columbine high school and just a couple of weeks after the 20th anniversary of the deadly shooting at that school, took place in a charter school in a small community. The offenders, one of whom is a juvenile, killed 1 student and injured 7 others.
Prior to this incident, there have been records found that the school had been ‘forewarned’ of such an incident possibly taking place. The information, which was given anonymously by a person claiming to be a parent of a student, claimed that there was a perfect storm brewing within the school environment, citing a high drug culture and a high-pressure environment, which could lead to a violent incident. The anonymous parent was concerned with the possibility of a ‘copy-cat’ incident happening, especially with the proximity to the Columbine high school .
Following this phone call, which happened in December of 2018, school authorities stated that the incident was investigated to try to verify the legitimacy of the possible threat. School authorities stated in a press release following the shooting that the investigation into the possible threat was ‘without merit’ and that there appeared to be no legitimacy nor evidence to support the caller’s concern .
One of the confirmed shooters, Devon Erickson, aged 18, had been noted to be acting a bit off prior to the incident. One individual, who stated that he had been a friend of Erickson’s prior to high school, stated that when he saw Erickson at a rail light station after four years, that he had changed a lot from the boy that he had known. He states that the offender had worn all black clothes, was withdrawn and not really willing to indulge in talking with his old friend, wore sunglasses and had lost a noticeable amount of weight. The witness stated that when Erickson did speak, that he was bragging about being 18 and owning rifles .
The other shooter, 16-year-old Alec McKinney, has since been charged as an adult in court. I have found very little information on this offender, specifically because of the offender’s age and with regards to possibly ‘tainting’ the court case. The only information on this suspect that I have found so far is that the suspect is a transgender male, and that there were allegations of drug abuse, though I haven’t found any information if the allegations had been substantiated .
The shooting, which happened shortly after 2 pm on May 7th, happened in a school that teaches students ranging in age from 5 up to 18. Many students stated that they were at first confused with what was going on, specifically those of the younger student body, claiming that they saw flashes and heard bangs, which then prompted students to run and hide to escape the melee .
One student is being hailed as a hero, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who gave his life trying to subdue 18-year-old Erickson in order to protect others. Erickson, after having shot and killed Castillo, put up a struggle against two other students, who were finally able to subdue him. It was during this scuffle that school authorities were able to inform law enforcement of the incident taking place .
Law enforcement responded within 2 minutes of the call for help, heading into the school to subdue the juvenile suspect, and taking into custody Erickson. Authorities seized 2 handguns and a rifle, of which the 2 handguns had been used in the incident while the rifle had not. It was later stated that they had the 2 suspects in custody, and that they didn’t believe that there were any others involved with the incident .
The injured were rapidly taken to various hospitals within the region, while students were escorted out of the premises to safety. The school was placed on lockdown while the suspects were taken into custody, as well as during the investigation of the incident. Shortly after the suspects were taken into custody, the students were reunited with parents and caregivers .
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that it was due to the first responders’ swift response and actions during the incident that saved countless lives that day. McConnell thanked the individuals involved in the response team for their swift reactions to the incident. He also expressed deep sadness and sympathy to the families and individuals who were victims of the incident in question .
The Federal Bureau of Investigation have since taken over the investigation of the shooting, but authorities have stated that they do not wish to release any statements pertaining to probable cause and motives, as such statements could have an adverse effect on the case. There has been speculations via news media that the incident was likely to have been caused by revenge and anger towards other students, as well as citing prior drug abuse by one of the suspects as motive for the shooting, although this is only speculation as the motivation statements have been suppressed . As stated prior, both suspects have been charged as adults, though the defense has stated that they will try to move McKinney’s trial to juvenile court, given the age of the suspect. Erickson’s defense team has stated that they have yet to see the evidence of the case, as well .
Following the events of the shooting, school officials sent out notices that the school would remain closed for the following week. Schools in the surrounding areas remained open, but due to the events at the STEM school, they had heightened security measures in order to prevent such incidences occurring. There were also crisis support centers that had been opened at the local church for the survivors of the shooting, as well as support staff onsite to help students and staff members following the crisis .
After the incident and the memorial service for Castillo, a group rallied around the school board, demanding to be heard. Parents are crying for school reforms, stating that there should be better measures in place in order to prevent such acts of violence from occurring, such as metal detectors within the entryway of the schools. One parent stated that Castillo should never have had to give his life to try to prevent the shooting and to protect his peers, that it is parents and school officials jobs to prevent such occurrences .
Sadly, this type of incident is all too familiar to Colorado. Shortly before this incident, there had been a concern about a Florida teen who expressed an infatuation with the Columbine shootings and had made threats of possibly committing the same actions prior to travelling to Colorado. This threat was taken very seriously, and area schools had been closed during that timeframe. It was later found that the suspect had committed suicide without following up on her threats .
There appears to be increased scrutiny towards school violence threats, with law enforcement keeping a close watch for such incidents. Politically, the reaction to the incident appears to be that of those in power calling for gun control, more restrictions on gun purchases and possession of firearms. The survivors of the shooting state that, while they want change in order to prevent such incidences, that they were appalled that the memorial for Castillo became a political rally in the call for gun control when it should have been a service to remember the lost. Some students made statements that they wish only to be allowed to heal and to remember Castillo, and that such things as rallies can come later .
In this time of uncertainty and increasing violent incidences such as this, one thing appears clear: Everyone desires change and preventative methods in place in order to avoid further violent incidences. This has become another rallying call to promote change and to call to attention violence in school settings. It is yet to be seen if the calls for gun control will be successful for politicians, or if suggestions made by parents will be followed, but one thing is for sure: Threats made such as this will be scrutinized closely in the hopes of preventing future violence and death.
When it comes to the research for this project, I spent hours going through news outlets and articles pertaining to the incident in question. Many of the articles that I evaluated stated the same things, others offered a lot of speculation, but few facts given. In evaluating the incident, I measured each article’s worth by looking at other reputable news outlets. Every article has some similarities, mostly about the events of the incident and that of law enforcement reactions and court proceedings. There were also videos that I watched with statements from students, parents and those in the community, giving me a good frame of reference to evaluate the news articles against.