The plan for the May 7, 2019 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch was for one of the shooters to be killed in the end and one to be "a hero," according to a gunman who spoke to a Castle Rock courtroom on June 8.
Alec McKinney, who pleaded guilty to dozens of charges including first-degree murder in 2020 for his role in the attack, told the jury that he and Devon Erickson started forming an elaborate plan weeks in advance — a plan that ended with eight students injured and one dead.
McKinney began testifying June 8 in the trial of Erickson, who is facing similar charges for his alleged role in the attack.
“As the plan did progress, we decided it would be best if we blamed it all on me,” McKinney said. “(Erickson) was going to shoot me to make it look like he tried to save everyone … he wanted to come off as the hero.”
In an opening statement at the start of the trial in May, Erickson’s defense team claimed that their client had actually wanted to stop the attack from happening. They said that several factors including Erickson's age, drug use and sleep deprivation played into the decisions he made the day of the shooting.
But in the beginning of his testimony, McKinney told a different story. McKinney, who wore a red jumpsuit and handcuffs in the courtroom, only began part of his testimony before the court broke for the day. The trial was set to restart the following morning at 8:45.
The defense has not yet cross examined McKinney, but in their opening statement said that the prosecution had “made a deal” with the co-defendant to pin the blame on Erickson.
The courtroom is not open to the public but the trial is being livestreamed. The stream can be accessed by visiting www.courts.state.co.us then viewing the “courts” menu and selecting “trial courts by county” then navigating to “Douglas County.” At the top of that page, there is a link to view the courtroom. .
Description of plan
McKinney said that he and Erickson met in January of 2019 — just months before the shooting — and started becoming friends. They smoked marijuana together and eventually got into harder drugs, such as cocaine, McKinney said.
One day, McKinney said, they were talking about their bucket lists.
“Devon said he wanted to get away with killing someone,” McKinney told the jury.
Slowly the pair began talking more and more about violent attacks and eventually began planning a school shooting, he said. He testified that Erickson had several ideas for plans but eventually, they decided on room 107 at STEM, where Erickson’s British Literature class met. They chose the class because of how many people Erickson hated in there, McKinney said.
“According to the plan, no one was going to (survive),” McKinney said. “Devon was going to have people line up and execute them.”
In the courtroom, Erickson appeared to be looking at McKinney and listening to the testimony. John and Maria Castillo, whose son Kendrick was killed during the attack in an attempt to get a gun away from Erickson, sat in the room as well.
The two gunmen had discussed the plan on Snapchat and Instagram but eventually moved to only talking about it in person so they wouldn't leave a digital footprint, McKinney said.
McKinney was visibly choked up as he talked about why the two decided it would be best to pin the crimes on himself.
“I didn’t really care about my life,” he said, “Or what was said about me after I was gone.”
At the beginning of his testimony, McKinney said he had received no promises of a better sentence before pleading guilty.