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The STEM School Shooting Was Different, Yet Horribly Familiar

BuzzFeed takes a deep dive into the May incident and what led up to it
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2019 9:25 AM CDT
In this May 8, 2019 file photo, Devon Erickson, one of the accused STEM School Highlands Ranch shooters, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo.   (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File)

(Newser) – The May 7 shooting at at Colorado's STEM School Highlands Ranch hasn't gotten as much attention as other school shootings, possibly because only one person was killed: 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who gave his life helping to stop one of the alleged shooters. But in a deep dive into the shooting and what led to it, BuzzFeed explores the ways in which it was different from most other school shootings (there were two alleged shooters, which had not happened since Columbine; one of those is the first transgender suspect in a mass shooting; and in an "exceptionally rare" occurrence, the suspects allegedly used drugs before the shooting) as well as the ways in which it was all too familiar. Both suspects struggled with mental health issues and substance abuse and discussed, via social media, the idea of getting revenge against bullies; they allegedly planned the shooting via Snapchat.

Alec McKinney, 16, told police he was the one who came up with the idea, wanting to inflict pain on classmates who had bullied him about being transgender. He told police one student in particular had told him he was disgusting for presenting himself as male, while the other misgendered him, referring to him as "she." He and Devon Erickson, 18, had known each other just a few months when the shooting took place, but they bonded quickly over their similar interests—and issues; in addition to struggling with mental health, they both had turbulent home lives and had experimented with drugs. Friends say it was reportedly McKinney who introduced Erickson to cocaine. McKinney and Erickson both reportedly told police McKinney threatened Erickson in order to ensure he went along with the shooting plan, though Erickson claims he was planning to warn other students when Castillo and two others rushed him, causing his gun to go off. See BuzzFeed for much more. (Read more Longform stories.)

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