Younger teen charged in STEM shooting to be tried as adult

Judge listened to days of testimony in November hearing for Alec McKinney, 16

The 16-year-old charged with carrying out a school shooting that left one dead and eight injured will be tried as an adult, according to a Dec. 4 ruling.
Douglas County District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes ruled that in order to protect the community, it’s important to deter future attacks with “heightened consequences,” according to the order.
“The emotional and psychological impact of the offenses has included fear, anxiety, reluctance to return to school, decrease in trust of others, anxiety and depression,” he wrote.
Alec McKinney has been charged with 43 counts, including first-degree murder, in connection with the May 7 attack at STEM School Highlands Ranch that left one student dead and eight injured. Devon Erickson, 19, faces similar charges for his alleged role in the attack.
If convicted, McKinney would face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years.
Holmes’ judgment came after a seven-day reverse transfer hearing in November in which the defense worked to convince a judge to move the case back to juvenile court.
In the ruling, the judge pointed out that even though the trial has not yet taken place, so far, evidence indicates “McKinney’s actions were not spontaneous, but purposeful and planned,” according to the order.
Holmes also expressed concern based on an incident in McKinney’s past where he gave prescription pills to a friend who later overdosed.
“Despite being involved in the juvenile justice system and seeing the potentially devastating consequences of his actions on another person’s life, McKinney moved forward with a plan to cause harm to others,” according to the order.
In the hearing, District Attorney George Brauchler and public defender Ara Ohanian disagreed about what sentence would be possible in each court. Ohanian claimed McKinney could still get life in prison through juvenile court and Brauchler argued he could get as little as two years.
Ohanian promised in his closing statement that if the case were to be moved back to juvenile court, the teen would plead guilty to all charges.
In his ruling, Holmes wrote that if McKinney is convicted and sentenced to the Department of Corrections, he would initially be placed in the Youth Offender System. The Pueblo facility has programs for mental health, education and drug treatment, according to the order.
During the hearing, Holmes heard from Mckinney’s mother, various psychologists, victims’ families and detectives.
Holmes learned about abuse, drug use and violence that McKinney grew up around. He also heard about struggles that McKinney, who is biologically female, has experienced as a transgender boy.
Maria Castillo, whose son Kendrick was killed in the shooting, spoke during the last day of the hearing about losing her only child.
“My life is over,” she said. “He was my life.”
Her testimony left many people in the room, including McKinney, in tears.
After the decision came out to try McKinney as a juvenile, John Castillo, Kendrick's father, said he and his wife were elated but aware of more hurdles in the future.
"Even though it's a positive step, it's a small step in a lengthy process," he said.
During the hearing, Ohanian and Brauchler presented two sides of McKinney’s alleged crime: the prosecution drawing on the brutality of the crime and the defense pointing to a rough upbringing and a juvenile mind.
Following the judge’s ruling, Brauchler released a statement saying he is also happy with the decision.
“I am satisfied and pleased that the court agreed that this mass shooting case should be resolved in adult court,” according to the statement. “It is my intention to move forward without any additional delay towards the jury trial.”
McKinney’s next hearing will be Dec. 16.


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