Colorado school gunman gets life with possibility of parole

Colorado school gunman gets life with possibility of parole

Colorado school gunman gets life with possibility of parole

A teenager who told authorities that he launched a fatal shooting attack on his suburban Denver school last year with a classmate because he wanted them to experience trauma like that he had experienced was sentenced on Friday to life in prison plus 38 years with the possibility of parole after about two decades behind bars.

Alec McKinney, 17, apologized to the parents of Kendrick Castillo, who was killed as he tackled one of the gunmen in the attack at STEM School Highlands Ranch, and to each of the eight other students wounded in the attack as well as those traumatized by it.

“I will never repeat these actions ever again because the harm I caused is truly too much for anyone to bear,” McKinney said as he seemed to choke back tears and struggled to breathe.

In his statement, made by video rather than in person because of the coronoavirus pandemic, he noted how each wounded student and their families had been affected, noting how one still has a bullet lodged in his body that requires him to be checked for lead poisoning and how another gave up playing soccer.

McKinney said he did not want leniency and urged anyone planning a school shooting to get help. But he also suggested the shooting was the idea of his alleged conspirator, Devon Erickson. Erickson’s lawyers have portrayed McKinney as the leader of the attack who pressured Erickson to join him.

After the shooting, McKinney told investigators that he planned the the attack for weeks and intended to target classmates who repeatedly mocked him because he was transgender, according to court documents.

“He wanted everyone in that school to suffer and realize that the world is a bad place,” said an affidavit summing up his statements.

The ripple effects of physical and emotional suffering caused by the shooting was a constant theme throughout the hearing.

Castillo’s parents spoke about their pain of losing their only son just days before graduation. John Castillo said he hated McKinney and said he was just crying “crocodile tears.”

“No one will know my pain unless you’re me. No one can ever take away that pain. It’s eternal,” Castillo said.

Teachers, parents and students spoke of being unable to sleep and developing anxiety and PTSD after the shooting. They also spoke of the triggers that can transport them back to the day of the shooting like the smell of drywall, which was ripped apart by bullets, and loud noises like fireworks and nail guns.

Kalissa Baraga, a parent volunteer at school to serve food to teachers on the day of the shooting, took cover in a men’s bathroom with her 5-year-old daughter and a baby that she watched. Her older children were in the elementary portion of the school as the chaos ensued.

Eventually, the door opened and someone pointed a rifle at her daughter. She soon realized that was a police officer.

A SWAT officer with him scooped up the baby, and they were ushered outside, past broken glass, which her daughter now associates with shootings, she said. The sight of it once caused her to run and hide at Home Depot, Baraga said.

“My kids are broken, my family is broken. We aren’t the same, and we won’t ever be the same,” Baraga told Judge Jeffrey K. Holmes.

The hearing was conducted partly online and in person because of the pandemic. Those testifying were allowed to appear in person in two different rooms in the court building, sitting apart from one another.

Holmes allowed them to remove their masks when they spoke, to make sure their emotion and facial expressions were seen, but lawyers had to keep their masks on. The lectern was wiped down after each person spoke.

McKinney, who pleaded guilty in February, was 16 at the time of the shooting. Even though he was prosecuted as an adult, he could be accepted into a three-year program for juvenile offenders after about 20 years in prison, taking into account time credits he could earn, District Attorney George Brauchler said. After completing that program, he would be released from prison.

Erickson, 19, has pleaded not guilty to all the same charges McKinney originally faced in the shooting. He is scheduled to go on trial in late September. Because he was an adult at the time of the shooting, he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press

Mass shootings

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Alberta leads the Prairie provinces in being the first to take COVID-19 vaccine bookings for pre-teens. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leads Prairie provinces in accepting COVID vaccine bookings for pre-teens

The province begins accepting appointments for kids as young as 12 starting today

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Bihrl
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium, scientist says

Jeff Kneteman says Alberta Environment has known about the problem in bighorn sheep for years

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as supply dwindles

There aren’t any confirmed shipments of AstraZeneca coming, and the province only has 8,400 doses of it left

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read