The attackers were identified by law enforcement officials as 18-year-old Devon Erickson and 16-year-old Maya McKinney, also known as Alec. The two allegedly walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch, a charter school outside of Denver, through an entrance without metal detectors and opened fire in two classrooms.
One classmate, Nui Giasolli, described the scene in her British literature class just before 2 p.m. local time. Her classmate Devon Erickson had arrived late to class.
Nui Giasolli, student inside Colorado STEM school during shooting, tearfully thanks the heroic students who brought down gunman so others could escape pic.twitter.com/2xm7g54dUc
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 8, 2019
“The shooter came in late. He walked to the other side of the classroom, where we also had another door. And he opened the door. He walked back as if he was going back to his seat,” Giasolli told NBC’s Today show. “Then he walked back to the door and he closed it. The next thing I know, he’s pulling a gun and he’s telling nobody to move.”
“And that’s when Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks to get ourselves safe and to run across the room to escape.”
Kendrick did not survive. He had three days of school left before his scheduled graduation day on May 20.
Kendrick’s father, John Castillo, told The Denver Post that he was the “best kid in the world.”
“It doesn’t surprise me. He cared enough about people that he would do something like that, even though it’s against my better judgment,” John said of his only child.
“I wish he had gone and hid,” he said. “But that’s not his character. His character is about protecting people, helping people.”
Kendrick had hoped to study electrical engineering in college, and was set to attend Arapahoe Community College in the fall, John told the Post.
This is 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo. He was the young man killed in the #STEMshooting yesterday.
We’re told he was passionate about technology, on the school’s robotics team, and set to graduate in just 3 days. Sending his family so much love during this time. 🙏🏽 @CBSDenver pic.twitter.com/QYalFnsCom
— Mekialaya White (@Mekialaya) May 8, 2019
A member of the school’s robotics club and a relentless tinkerer, Castillo had an infectious smile and gentle sense of humor, according to friends.
Cecilia Bedard, 19, had known Castillo since elementary school and said he was always friendly, modest, and excited to help people. He made a point of always joining his father at Knights of Columbus fundraisers and bingo nights.
“He told me he wanted to be a Knights of Columbus because he wanted to help not only people, but his community,” Bedard told Post in a message. “He was the bravest soul I’ve ever met and never even cared what others thought because he was too busy finding ways to make you smile.”
He worked part-time at a local manufacturing company that had offered him a job after an internship because he was such a standout employee. Rachel Short, president of the company, Baccara, told the Associated Press: “To find he went down as a hero, I’m not surprised. That’s exactly who Kendrick was.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis commended Kendrick’s bravery in a message on Twitter: “Colorado will always remember the heroism of Kendrick Castillo.”
Colorado hero Kendrick Castillo lost his life saving others. Kendrick, 18, lunged towards the gunman and helped prevent an even worse tragedy. Colorado will always remember the heroism of Kendrick Castillo.https://t.co/VhlerQe768
— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) May 8, 2019
Brendan Bialy, a close friend of Kendrick, told the Associated Press that Kendrick sprang into action against the shooter “and immediately was on top of him with complete disregard for his own safety.”
Bialy himself had wrestled the gun from Erickson’s hand and the students subdued him before police arrived. The other shooter was captured by an armed security guard.
According to AP, he smiled as he recounted the struggle with the shooter, saying that he wanted to focus on the positive. “They completely and utterly failed in a matter of half a minute,” he said of the attackers.
“What I saw yesterday was the absolute best of people,” he added.
Bialy has signed up for the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program and plans to join them when he graduates.
“I want to thank Brendan Bialy, Jackson Gregory, and Lucas Albertoni, for being some of the kids who were brave enough to bring us down so that all of us could escape and all of us could be reunited with our families. They were very heroic,” Giasolli told NBC.
“I think I wouldn’t be standing here right now, I think I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories for how brave Kendrick was, how brave Jackson and Lucas and everybody were because they made that choice to sacrifice themselves so that all of us could go home that night.”
Another student at the school, Joshua Jones, was also shot twice as he tried to disarm one of the attackers, his family said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report