On Friday, Feb. 7, 16-year-old Alec McKinney plead guilty to first-degree murder at the Colorado STEM School Highlands Ranch that took place on May 7. of last year. The student also pleaded guilty to 16 other counts in the attack, which he carried out with fellow student, 19-year-old Devon Erickson.
The shooting occurred three days before the last day of school, during last period English. McKinney and Erickson were late to class, and when they finally showed up, they each carried a gun they had stolen from a locked cabinet in Erickson’s home.
At that moment, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo made a split-second decision to lunge in front of Erickson, giving other students a few more seconds to take cover and hide. According to the New York Times, the only words he uttered to his classmates before risking his life were “don’t you dare move.”
Though eight others were injured during the attack, Erickson and McKinney are only responsible for the injuries of six. Two others were injured when a school security officer shot what he thought were the gunmen. The officer fired at emergency responders and the bullets went through a wall and injured two students in another classroom.
Alec McKinney, legally known as Maya McKinney, told authorities that he targeted several students who had always bullied him for being transgender. One of the students he targeted broke his laptop and repeatedly referred to him as “she.”
As a result of the bullying, McKinney has had suicidal and homicidal thoughts since he was 12. Finally, it got to the point where he could no longer stand it and enlisted the help of his friend, Erickson.
According to an affidavit from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, McKinney said he wanted students at the school to “experience bad things” and “have to suffer from trauma like he has had to in his life.”
Under Colorado state law, the mandatory minimum sentence for a minor convicted of first-degree murder is life with the possibility of parole after 40 years. However, according to Vikki Migoya, a spokeswoman for the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, if McKinney were accepted into a special program for prisoners under 18, he could be released after 20-25 years.
After a court hearing that took place last year, it was decided that McKinney would be tried as an adult for his crimes. No one answered the phone numbers listed for his public defenders, Nicole Savino and Ara Ohanian. The Office of the Colorado State Public Defender says on its website that its lawyers do not comment on criminal cases.
McKinney is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18.
Erickson, however, has pleaded not guilty to all 48 charges brought against him in relation to the attack. He is scheduled for a court hearing on April 14. If Erickson is convicted of first-degree murder, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole because he was 18 at the time of the shooting.