Roundup: U.S. Colorado high school shooting leaves unanswered questions

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HIGHLANDS RANCH, the United States, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Prosecutors in U.S. state of Colorado have until Wednesday to file formal charges against two teenage suspects for murdering 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and wounding eight others in a high school shooting last week.

Just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, two teenagers, aged 18 and 16, walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch K-12 magnet school southeast of Denver and started firing, according to the police.

Castillo, who sacrificed his life trying to save others, has become a symbol of tragedy and heroism, with local media coverage and thousands of social media postings across America extolling his honorable behavior.

The shooting left the local community with many unanswered questions, while investigation is being carried out to find the motives of the two suspects.

The judge overseeing the case decided on Friday to give prosecutors, led by veteran District Attorney George Brauchler, more time to finalize charges against the suspects.

Brauchler already tagged the suspect of Castillo's slaying, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, with 30 charges last week - 1 count of suspicion of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted first-degree murder after deliberation.


Hundreds of students from the school of 1,800 students held their own rally after walking away from a school-sponsored vigil last week, calling it a "staged media event."

"What this community needs right now is support for the trauma they have experienced," said gun control advocate Sandy Phillips.

Phillips' 24-year-old daughter was one of 12 murdered in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and she remembers well the shock and trauma felt by grieving friends and families.

"It is not the time for branding and t-shirts or pro-gun groups or gun reform groups to be organizing these students," she told Xinhua on Monday.

"What they need is trauma therapists on site to teach skill sets to help with the PTSD that will arise in both students and faculty," she said.

Last week, Sandy and her husband Lonnie Phillips were hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper in a discussion on ways to reduce gun deaths in America and other issues related to these tragedies.


Brauchler became a national figure during the Aurora theater shooting trial and has been known for his no-nonsense approach toward murderers and pursuit of the death penalty.

With liberal politicians running Colorado in 2019, the Senate Judiciary Committee in March voted 3-2 to abolish the death penalty, but it's not off the books yet.

So Brauchler still has the option, with which he unsuccessfully tried against the Batman movie killer in 2015.

Court insiders told Xinhua that Brauchler will likely charge both STEM suspects as adults, and may seek the death penalty on Devon Erickson.

One driving force affecting Brauchler's decisions will be the motive for the heinous crime.

Little was known about Erickson's accomplice. While court documents listed the younger suspect as Maya Elizabeth McKinney, he is known as Alec McKinney, and "identified as transgender and had been bullied for it," according to Denver's ABC television affiliate.

"Bullying is very common, and with teenagers can have volatile repercussions," said Eleanora Brown, a woman's studies major at Prescott College in Arizona.

"What makes this case unusual is that one of the chief antagonists is a woman who identifies herself as a man - it's usually boys using guns that cause these killings," Brown said.

Twenty years and one month ago, two teenagers killed 12 students and a teacher and injured 21 others in a mass shooting at Columbine High School, located just over 11 km away in affluent Littleton, Colorado.

This time, a lengthy trial awaits the two suspects, and more contentious dialogue will be heard regarding bullying, gun control, mental health, arming teachers, and even why more money was not allocated to the local sheriff's department for more law enforcement protection at the STEM school. Enditem

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