Douglas County disputes claim in STEM shooting

STEM victim says sheriff's office provided inadequate security


Douglas County's attorney said the county is not liable for the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch after one of the victims filed a claim against the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in October.

The student, Brendan Bialy, alleges the sheriff's office didn't provide adequate security for STEM because it didn't assign the school a resource officer.

Two STEM students were arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack, which left one student dead and eight injured in May.

The sheriff's office and STEM disagreed over appropriate duties for an SRO leading up to the 2018-19 school year and didn't enter into a contract to have an SRO cover the school, according to a lengthy news release the sheriff's office issued a few days after the May 7 shooting.

STEM instead contracted with a private security company. An armed security guard was on duty during the shooting. The guard, who has not been identified by authorities, reportedly helped detain one of the shooters, but is suspected of mistakenly firing at responding sheriff's office deputies and injuring a student. Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler forwarded the guard's case to the 4th Judicial District, which has not announced any charges.

Bialy, a senior at the time of the attack, rushed one of the two suspects with other students at the onset of the shooting, according to a notice of claim filed by his attorney. A “notice of claim” is a written notice to a government agency filed when someone believes the public entity caused personal injury or a wrongful death and intends to file a lawsuit.

Bialy, who was not physically injured, also attempted to confront the alleged second shooter and then tried to revive student Kendrick Castillo, who died of his injuries. He was able to disarm the older suspect during the confrontation. Bialy says he suffers from post-traumatic stress and myriad mental health symptoms as a result of the shooting.

"The nature and extent of Brendan Bialy's injuries are ongoing," the claims states. Bialy is receiving treatment for extreme trauma, PTSD, grief and anxiety, it says. "These injuries are serious, debilitating and permanent in nature."

He chose to leave the U.S. Marine Corps as a result of the trauma, his claim states, which estimates his personal injury damages at more than $1 million.

Bialy also names the Douglas County School District and STEM in his claim. Three other families filed similar claims. They include John and Maria Castillo, parents of Kendrick Castillo, who was shot rushing a shooter with Bialy and student Josh Jones, who was wounded.

Douglas County Attorney Lance Ingalls disputed Bialy's claim in a written response.

“Your claim suggests that the Douglas County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) is or could be liable for failure to provide a school resource officer (SRO) to STEM at the time of the shooting,” Ingalls wrote. “Charter schools are authorized to contract for services as it deems appropriate and STEM did not have an agreement with DCSO for the 2018-2019 school year for an SRO or other security services.”

DCSO did not have authority to be at STEM outside of responding to 911 calls during the shooting, the attorney said, which it responded to “immediately.” Ingalls said the claim asserted the sheriff's office was liable under the Colorado Government Immunity Act. The act covers when a government entity is or is not immune from liabilities.

“It is not clear how and why you believe not having such an agreement between STEM and DCSO for an SRO or other type of security results in a waiver of the CGIA, but Douglas County does not agree with this apparent conclusion,” Ingalls wrote.


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