One of the two suspects in the STEM School shooting in a Denver-area suburb that killed one student and injured eight others last year was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole plus 38 years on Friday.
Alec McKinney, who was 16 at the time of the shooting but charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and 16 other charges in February after admitting to authorities that he planned the attack and recruited his classmate Devon Erickson to carry it out.
“I don’t deserve leniency nor forgiveness. I don’t want a lighter sentence. All I want is to take this opportunity to speak for myself and apologize for what I have done,” McKinney said during the hearing, according to local reporters. “I will never hurt anyone again.”
On May 7, 2019, authorities say McKinney and Erickson opened fire in a British literature class at the Highlands Ranch school, killing 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and injuring several other students.
Under a plea agreement, McKinney faced a maximum sentence of “life with the possibility of parole after 40 years minus earned time plus 407½ years,” according to prosecutors.
George Brauchler, the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District of Colorado, told reporters after the hearing that he was disappointed by the length of the sentence, pointing out that McKinney will be eligible for parole at 40, “young enough to have a family, have a career, [and] be happy.”
“The message that I wanted sent to this community — and it’s going to go far beyond this community — is that if you engage in the planning and execution of a mass shooting at the school you should expect the system to try to take from you every single second of your freedom that you have,” Brauchler said. “And we didn’t get that sentence today.”
Castillo’s parents were among the more than more than 20 witnesses and victims who testified during the all-day virtual hearing, telling McKinney that they would never forgive him.
“This killer is a monster,” Kendrick’s father, John Castillo, said, according to CBS Denver. “You took something from me that can never be replaced. … You’ve taken my purpose. … I will never find peace.”
During his remarks, McKinney told the Castillos that every day he tries “to do something positive” on behalf of their son and encouraged others who may be thinking about carrying out a school shooting to “get help.”
McKinney, who is transgender, had a history of mental health issues and substance abuse. He had said he wanted students at STEM to “have to suffer from trauma like he has had in his life,” according to an affidavit.
“Don’t be a coward and hide behind a gun,” he said. “Be brave and learn how to get help.”
Erickson has pleaded not guilty to more than 40 charges stemming from the incident. He is due to go to trial in September.