STEM School Affidavit: Cocaine, Ax, Accidental Wounding by Guard

Emergency responders to the shooting.
Emergency responders to the shooting. 9News via YouTube
The release of an arrest affidavit for the May 7 shooting at the STEM School of Highlands Ranch, during which one student was killed and eight others were injured, reveals astonishing details about the tragic incident.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office document, accessible below, includes allusions to cocaine, suicidal ideation, an ax used to smash open a gun safe, weapons transported in a guitar case and the accidental wounding of a girl by a security guard.

The affidavit's timeline begins at 1:53 p.m. on June 7, when DougCo authorities were notified of a shooting at the school, located at 8757 Ridgeline Boulevard in Highlands Ranch. The call came from a teacher who said shots had been fired and were continuing to sound. Later reports identified eighteen-year-old Devon Erickson, who was described as a white male with pink hair and a checkered shirt, and sixteen-year-old Alec McKinney, who wore a Nirvana hoodie and boasted purple and black hair.

Shortly thereafter, authorities detained the younger student, who was armed with a handgun, in a hallway. Meanwhile, the other student was in classroom 107. He wasn't armed at the time and was being held down by students, including one who'd been shot in the leg (Joshua Jones) and another who'd suffered a gunshot wound to his torso and was unconscious (Kendrick Castillo, who subsequently passed away). However, two handguns and a rifle were found in the classroom.

Furthermore, an unnamed security guard is said to have fired two rounds at DCSO Lieutenant Laurie Bronner after he reported seeing "a muzzle come around the corner." The narrative divulges that "one of the shots fired by the security guard wounded a female in room 106."

The female's name is blacked out in the affidavit. As for the security guard, he was reportedly employed by BOSS High Level Protection's Grant Whitus, a past Jefferson County SWAT team leader who took part in the response to the 1999 Columbine High School attack. In 2016, Whitus wrote Bullet Riddled, a book that attempted to defend the much-maligned tactics used at Columbine.

The eighteen-year-old subsequently took part in an interview with two sheriff's office detectives at the Highlands Ranch substation. He said that a friend — the name has been removed, but it was clearly the sixteen-year-old — messaged him on Snapchat and "told him not to go to school tomorrow." He screen-capped the message so that he could show friends "in order to 'save them,'" he maintained. The younger student also told him that he was "super suicidal" and "wanted to get revenge on a lot of people." Among those potentially marked for murder were his mother and siblings, but the eighteen-year-old said he talked him out of doing so. Also cited was an unnamed individual who "had previously spread a rumor about the two of them having sex even though that wasn't true."

At the time, he asserted, McKinney, who is transgender, threatened to kill him, too, if he blew the whistle.

Students Joshua Jones, Kendrick Castillo and Brendan Bialy (from left) helped disarm and hold down the older suspect in the shooting. A petition to honor the trio at the next ESPY awards ceremony has more than 73,000 signatures at this writing. - CHANGE.ORG
Students Joshua Jones, Kendrick Castillo and Brendan Bialy (from left) helped disarm and hold down the older suspect in the shooting. A petition to honor the trio at the next ESPY awards ceremony has more than 73,000 signatures at this writing.
That morning, the eighteen-year-old said, he came and went from school a couple of times and claimed that he "wanted to call police" — but that didn't happen. Instead, he picked up the younger student and they went back to his house. There, the younger student supposedly did some cocaine; he stressed that he refused his own bump. Meanwhile, the discussion turned to a gun safe for which his father had the key. He swore to police that that he tried to walk away at that point, but the other student said he'd be marked for death if he did.

After retrieving an ax, the sixteen-year-old allegedly smashed it against the safe's door. This assault caused the door to gap enough that it could be pried the rest of the way open with a crowbar, and the pair removed four weapons — a Glock 21, a Beretta M9, a Ruger 10/22 rifle and a Taurus revolver — and some ammunition. Then, after the younger student snorted more cocaine (the other said he joined in this time after another threat), they placed the weapons in a guitar case and drove to the school. There, they entered through a door where they were confident no one would check the case's contents.

After stashing the guitar case in the back of room 107, the affidavit continues, the eighteen-year-old told the teacher he felt ill and was sent to the office. Again, he told the detectives that he planned to report the other student's plot, which at that point he thought was focused on a single victim, but instead "had a panic attack" and went to a bathroom instead. Upon his emergence, the younger student was waiting for him and allegedly said he'd slay him and other students if he squealed.

Inside room 107, the eighteen-year-old told police, he pulled the Glock from the guitar case and yelled at everyone to get down. Instead, two students rushed him, and he insisted that their impact caused the gun to go off. He also said he tried telling the students who were holding him down that the younger student had a gun "and was trying to kill everyone" even as more gunshots were heard, accompanied by screams.

An excerpt from the report: He "repeatedly claimed he was going to stop [deleted], but couldn't articulate how or why he never told an adult."

The next section of the affidavit is devoted to the sixteen-year-old's account. He informed investigators that "he was born a female and is still in the pre-op transitioning phase" and had "been planning a school shooting for a few weeks" because "he wanted the kids at the school to experience bad things, have to suffer from trauma like he has had to in his life. He wanted everyone in that school to suffer and realize that the world is a bad place."

He mentioned two specific, unnamed targets who "always made fun of him, 'hated him,' called him names and said he was disgusting for trying to be a guy."

Much of the account that follows is similar to the one offered by the older student, but with key additions. The transgender student said he had written the phrase "The Voices Win" in nail polish on a closet wall in the home, as well as taking part in spray-painting a car owned by the other student's mother before setting it on fire. The blaze burned out on its own.

After the other student was tackled in room 107, the younger one told police that he ran out of the classroom with the intention of committing suicide, but "he didn't know how to work the safety and isn't familiar with guns and wasn't able to shoot and kill himself." When an armed security guard challenged him at gunpoint and ordered him to the ground, he "complied with verbal orders and was taken into custody."

The names of those who were in room 107 during the incident are represented by bullet points in the affidavit. There are 29 of them.

Click to read the DE's arrest affidavit.
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