Deadly Colorado school shooting revives memories of past tragedies

PHOTO: District Attorney George Brachler speaks at a press conference, May 8, 2019, regarding a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch the previous day in Highlands Ranch, Colo.PlayKMGH
WATCH Deadly school shooting in Colorado revives painful memories for community

The deadly school shooting in Colorado Tuesday brought back familiar feelings of grief and fear for local parents, including the district attorney who will be handling the case.

"If you had suggested to anybody behind me or in this room that within 20 years in 20 miles we would have dealt with Columbine, the Aurora theater, Arapahoe High School, the shooting of Zack Parrish and four other deputies, we'd have thought you mad, and yet here we are again," District Attorney George Brauchler said at a news conference Wednesday.

His comments come as the community in Douglas County, Colorado, grapple with the aftermath of the shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, which left one victim dead and eight others injured. Two suspects are in custody.

"There are those that won’t be classified as victims [who are] feeling it right now," he said, specifically talking about mothers and fathers who he said will be having serious conversations about whether or not to send their kids to school.

"My kids are going to go to school today and I recommend everyone else send their kids to school too," Brauchler said.

"These are aberrant acts," he went on. "The problem is when you get three or four or five of them in a 20 mile [area]" people start to think they aren’t as uncommon as they seem, he noted.

PHOTO: District Attorney George Brachler speaks at a press conference, May 8, 2019, regarding a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch the previous day in Highlands Ranch, Colo. KMGH
District Attorney George Brachler speaks at a press conference, May 8, 2019, regarding a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch the previous day in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

"This is not who we are and my concern is ... this becomes how people view us," Brauchler said.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said an investigation into Tuesday’s shooting is underway and law enforcement officials are still trying to determine a motive.

The two suspects – an adult and a juvenile, both of whom attended the school – were apprehended by responding officers in two different parts of the school. The adult was identified by officials as 18-year-old Devon Erickson. The juvenile suspect has not been publicly named.

PHOTO: Devon Erickson, an accused STEM School shooter, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo., May 8, 2019. Joe Amon/Denver Post via AP
Devon Erickson, an accused STEM School shooter, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo., May 8, 2019.

A charging document released Wednesday by the Douglas County District Court ahead of Erickson's hearing says he is facing a count for murder. Brauchler said earlier the charge is not official or final.

Erickson appeared at his advisory hearing Wednesday, nodding when the judge read the terms of a protection order against him, which requires him to stay away and not contact the other suspect as well as any witnesses or victims. He must also relinquish any weapons he has in his possession. Erickson shook his head no when the judge asked if he had any questions.

PHOTO: Devon Erickson, 18, one of the two suspects in a shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., appears in court for his first hearing on May 8, 2019. KMGH
Devon Erickson, 18, one of the two suspects in a shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., appears in court for his first hearing on May 8, 2019.

The juvenile suspect appeared in court Wednesday wearing a gray jumpsuit. He looked ahead and addressed the judge clearly when asked questions, and his mother was permitted to sit at the table with him since he is still a minor.

Spurlock said that three of the wounded remain in intensive care but the other five students have all been released from local hospitals. All of the injuries – as well as the fatality – were the result of gunshots.

The parents of Kendrick Castillo confirmed to ABC News that he was killed in the shooting. His father, John Castillo, called his son a hero.

"I want people to know about him," John Castillo said through tears.

PHOTO: Kendrick Castillo was identified by his parents as being the student who died at a Colorado high school shooting on May 7, 2019. Kendrick and his mother in a family photo. Courtesy John Castillo
Kendrick Castillo was identified by his parents as being the student who died at a Colorado high school shooting on May 7, 2019. Kendrick and his mother in a family photo.
PHOTO: This undated photo provided by Rachel Short shows Kendrick Castillo, who was killed during a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Rachel Short via AP
This undated photo provided by Rachel Short shows Kendrick Castillo, who was killed during a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Few details about how the shooting unfolded have been made public. But Spurlock did say that the suspects entered the school, which does not have metal detectors, in the middle school section. There was an armed security guard at the school, but after police were notified of a shooting, officers on street patrol were at the scene in less than two minutes.

"Once at the school, they immediately engaged the suspects and started to rescue the children that were injured," Spurlock said during the news conference, clarifying that shots were not exchanged between the officers and the suspects.

PHOTO: Students and teachers raise their hands as the exit the scene of a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7, 2019 in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Tom Cooper/Getty Images
Students and teachers raise their hands as the exit the scene of a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7, 2019 in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Spurlock said that two pistols were used in the shooting. The state’s red-flag laws, which help prevent certain individuals from buying guns, would not have applied in this case because "neither one of them is of legal age to purchase a gun anyway."

Spurlock told ABC News after the press conference that the responding deputies needed to "force their way into the school" because the building had been put on lockdown.

He said the officers "just happened to pick a door," learning moments later that "one of the suspects was right down the hall from that door."

"I think divine intervention maybe played a role in that," Spurlock said.

PHOTO: Sheriff Tony Spurlock speaks at a press conference, May 8, 2019, regarding a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch the previous day in Highlands Ranch, Colo. KMGH
Sheriff Tony Spurlock speaks at a press conference, May 8, 2019, regarding a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch the previous day in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

"Then they took that person into custody and then started to search for the other person," he added.

Gov. Jared Polis spoke at the news conference, asking for the community to come together and support one another, saying, "We've been no stranger to tragedy."

"We are a resilient state, whether it’s in the face of fire floods or human tragedy like this," Polis said. "America has seen too many of these senseless acts of violence."