No charges for STEM security guard who injured students

Shamson Sundara will enter a diversion program, per agreement with victims


The privately hired security guard on duty during the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting told investigators the school didn't allow him to carry a firearm at the school in interviews after the shooting.  But he'd rather be in a position to save lives, even if that meant losing his company's contract with the school,  than go unarmed, according to the arrest affidavit for the younger of the two shooting suspects.

Colorado Community Media obtained the affidavit through a public records request. The guard, identified by 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May as Shamson Sundara, has declined media interviews and is poised to serve as a witness for the prosecution as the STEM suspects' cases move to trial.

During the shooting, the guard mistakenly fired at other responding officers, injured two students and was illegally carrying a weapon on school grounds, May said in an announcement on Jan. 24. 

Still, Sundara detained and disarmed the younger suspect, possibly saving more lives, and acted in compliance with state law by using deadly force in an effort to stop the shooting, May said. 

May began investigating the guard's actions during the May 7 shooting after 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler forwarded the case to his office. Brauchler's office is prosecuting the shooting suspects, Devon Erickson, 19, and Alec McKinney, 16. A spokeswoman said the office had no comment on May's announcement.

The guard will not face charges but will enter an adult diversion program, incorporating a restorative justice forum with the shooting victims. The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office will mediate the forum. 

As part of the agreement, Sundara will also complete 50 hours of community service.

“It should be noted that this agreement was reached in consultation with the injured victims and their families, law enforcement and the Douglas County School District,” May wrote.

Sundara was able to detain and disarm McKinney, who will face trial for 43 felony charges, including murder and attempted murder. Several students were injured in the shooting. Senior Kendrick Castillo, 18, died while rushing Erickson.

Video played in court hearings for McKinney, who is accused of masterminding the attack, shows the 16-year-old walking through the school halls with a gun pointed to his head, attempting to take his life when Sundara discovered him.

Shortly after encountering McKinney, Sundara saw an individual dressed in street clothes round the hallway and then saw the muzzle of a gun, May said. He fired two shots in the direction of the gun.

Both shots missed the person but went through the wall of a nearby classroom and injured two students. The person Sundara shot at turned out to be a law enforcement officer.

“As soon as the law enforcement officers identified themselves, Mr. Sundara immediately and fully complied with their commands,” May said. 

The arrest affidavit offers additional detail about Sundara's handling of the shooting. 

After placing McKinney in handcuffs, Sundara had removed his jacket so his security shirt would be visible, according to the affidavit. He believed from information McKinney provided him that another shooter was still active in the building. 

As he kept watch over McKinney, Sundara watched another student leave the classroom where the shooting took place but realized the student was not a shooter and ordered them to come toward him. 

"As (Sundara) is dealing with (McKinney), he sees the barrel of a rifle coming out of the end of the hallway," the affidavit states. 

The guard fired two shots and after heard "the announcement of 'Police,' and put his weapon down, the affidavit said. 

"(Sundara) did not hear any announcements prior to firing his weapon and believed the barrel was the shooter approaching," the affidavit says.  

STEM prohibited him from carrying a weapon on school grounds, but May said state statute permitted his use of deadly force in the situation.

“Our investigation has determined that his actions were in compliance with the applicable law,” May said.

Sundara, 30, has worked at BOSS High Level Protection for approximately one year. BOSS president Grant Whitus said the company holds Sundara as a hero who saved lives the day of the shooting.

"We didn't believe from the beginning that Shamson would be charged with anything, so we're happy," Whitus said. "He's certainly a key witness going forward and he's happy to help out the prosecution."

He was not disciplined following STEM and has been promoted to an administrative position overseeing the company's hiring and recruiting. Whitus said Sundara can still work in the field if he would like to.

"We wouldn't stop him from doing that," Whitus said.

Sundara is a military veteran who saw combat in the Middle East, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2008-12. He returned home and joined the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office as a deputy in 2013, staying until 2017. Whitus worked as a sergeant for the sheriff's office at the time until he left to start his security firm and later hired Sundara.

Whitus said he could not comment on why Sundara was armed at STEM or what led to him firing his weapon toward the responding law enforcement officer.

"I hail both of them for what they did but in the chaos in mass shootings, things occur," Whitus said. "He's a witness for this prosecution, so he's going to have to tell his story during these trials."


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