School shooting suspect appears in court

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School shooting suspect appears in court

One pupil died and eight others were injured after two students opened fire at the school in Denver, Colorado.


Devon Erickson has appeared in court (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP)
Devon Erickson has appeared in court (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP)

One of the two suspects in the Colorado school shooting has appeared in court, with his head bowed and hair shielding his face.

Devon Erickson, 18, made his first court appearance on Wednesday, shackled at the waist with his hands cuffed as he sat in a courtroom flanked by two defence lawyers.

Erickson nodded frequently in answer to the judge’s questions.

He is scheduled to return to court on Friday, when charges are expected to be filed.

His court appearance came as Kendrick Castillo,  18, was named as the single fatality.

He leapt from his desk and charged the two alleged attackers, sacrificing his life to buy classmates time to escape, authorities said.

Eight other pupils were injured after two students opened fire at the school in Denver on Tuesday.

The shooting at Highlands Ranch came nearly three weeks after neighbouring Littleton marked the grim 20th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre that killed 13 people.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the students walked into the school in a suburb of Denver and began shooting at pupils in two classrooms.

Within minutes, deputies at a nearby sheriff’s department substation entered the school and arrested the two suspects after a struggle.

Another teenager preparing to enter the Marines also tackled the gunmen. An armed security guard then confronted and detained one of them.

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Authorities said these acts of bravery helped minimise the bloodshed from the attack, which also wounded eight people.

“We’re going to hear about very heroic things that have taken place at the school,” Mr Spurlock said Wednesday.

The alleged attackers were identified by law enforcement officials as Devon Erickson and a younger student who is a juvenile and was not named.

They allegedly walked into the school through an entrance without metal detectors and opened fire in two classrooms.

Because the attack happened only miles from Columbine and just weeks after the shooting’s 20th anniversary, questions quickly arose about whether it was inspired by the 1999 massacre. But investigators offered no immediate motive.

Student Nui Giasolli told NBC’s Today show that she was in her literature class when one of the suspects came in late and pulled out a gun.

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Vehicles block the road to the Highlands Ranch school(David Zalubowski/AP)

Castillo lunged at the gunman, who shot the teenager.

Castillo’s swift action gave the rest of the class time to get underneath their desks and then run across the room to escape, Giasolli said.

Castillo worked part-time at a local manufacturing company. “To find he went down as a hero, I’m not surprised. That’s exactly who Kendrick was,” said Rachel Short, president of the company, Baccara.

Cecilia Bedard, 19, had known Castillo since primary school and said he was always friendly, modest and pleased to help people.

“He was amazing,” Bedard said. “He was honestly the sweetest kid I ever met. Never said a mean joke.”

Brendan Bialy, 18, who was enrolled in a delayed-entry programme for the Marines, charged the gunmen as well, helping fight them off, according to authorities and witnesses.

“His decisive actions resulted in the safety and protection of his teachers and fellow classmates,” Marine Captain Michael Maggiti said.

Then, as the gunmen moved through the 1,800-student campus, an armed security guard detained one of them, Mr Spurlock said.

The guard was employed by Boss High Level Protection, a company started by a former Swat team leader who responded to the Columbine shooting.

The owner, Grant Whitus, told The Associated Press the security guard is a former Marine who ran to the area of the shootings and confronted one of the armed students in a hallway.

The guard drew his weapon and apprehended the person, Mr Whitus said. “He doesn’t even realise how many lives he saved by stopping a school shooting,” he added.

Both suspects were students at the school, and they were not previously known to authorities, Mr Spurlock said.

Douglas County District Attorney George Brauchler said the community remains resilient in the face of multiple shootings, including Columbine, the 2012 theatre shooting in the Denver suburb of Aurora and the 2013 shooting at Arapahoe High School.

The attacks are “aberrant acts” although they might seem otherwise to the rest of the world, he said.

“Who we are is a kind, compassionate, caring people, and this does not define us. It won’t today and it won’t tomorrow,” he said.

Press Association

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