CASTLE ROCK, CO — Alec McKinney was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in the 2019 STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, which left one student dead and eight others injured. More than 20 witnesses testified at the sentencing hearing Friday.
McKinney, 17, pleaded guilty in February to first-degree murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo. McKinney also pleaded guilty to 16 other charges for his role in the school shooting, which occurred May 7, 2019.
McKinney was 16 at the time of the shooting, and his attorney pushed to have his client's case moved to juvenile court late last year, but the motion was denied by a Douglas County judge. While the teen was tried as an adult, his age prohibited him from being sentenced to death or life without parole.
Both McKinney and Devon Erickson planned and carried out the shooting, prosecutors said. Erickson, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, faces a maximum sentence of life without parole. His trial is scheduled for September.
McKinney had a difficult childhood and struggled with his sexuality, his attorneys said. The teenager said he was bullied for being transgender and that 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 the world is a bad place," according to an arrest affidavit.
The defense attorneys said Erickson pressured McKinney to participate in the shooting.
Both teens broke into Erickson's parents' gun safe with a crowbar and an ax, investigators said. The two then brought the guns into the school in a guitar case and backpack and opened fire, according to the arrest affidavit.
Castillo's peers said he was shot to death while trying to save them. He had only three days of school left before his graduation.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, McKinney wasn't in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing — he appeared on a large television screen for a live video.
Both of Castillo's parents told McKinney Friday that they will never forgive him.