Douglas County commissioners have nominated Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old who was killed in the May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, to be memorialized in a national statue garden.
Kendrick, who lunged at one of the attackers in an attempt to stop him before being shot, was a senior at the school. Eight other students were injured in the shooting.
“What a hero is to me is somebody who puts others before themselves in every aspect,” Kendrick’s father, John Castillo said in an interview with Colorado Community Media bout the nomination. “On May 7, that’s what (Kendrick) did. He made the ultimate choice to give up his life for others.”
President Donald Trump announced the idea for the National Garden of American Heroes in a July 4 speech at Mount Rushmore. He signed an executive order for the monument to American heroes the day before.
Other nominations of people who may be featured in the garden, suggested by local and state leaders, include George Floyd, Rosa Parks and Sacagawea. In the executive order, Trump listed Ronald Reagan, Frederick Douglass and George Washington in a list of those to be honored.
The executive order calls for the national garden to be opened by the Fourth of July 2026.
The U.S. Department of the Interior reached out to the Douglas County board of commissioners to ask if the county had any nominations or ideas for where the statue garden could be placed, Commissioner Lora Thomas said
Thomas looked up the word hero and found “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities,” she said.
“When I read that, I was like, ‘Well this is Kendrick Castillo,’” she said.
Thomas and her fellow commissioners Roger Partridge and Abe Laydon were in a meeting together on the day Kendrick was killed, she said.
“This was very personal for all three of us,” she said. “That was very emotional for all of us.”
The decision to nominate Kendrick was unanimous, Thomas said.
In a letter nominating Kendrick, commissioners describe the young man’s sacrifice.
“According to a classmate, ‘Kendrick lunged at (the suspect), and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe and to run across the room to escape,’” according to the letter.
Commissioners also recommended Rocky Mountain National Park as a possible location for the statue.
“Kendrick being honored is just so fitting ... He always had a great spirit to serve others,” John Castillo said. “It would be somebody like Kendrick not just because he’s our son but because of how he lived his life through and through.”
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