Colorado School Shooting Suspect Says He Was Pressured to Carry Out May Attack
At an evidentiary hearing on Tuesday, Devon Erickson’s lawyer claimed that his co-defendant threatened him and coerced him into using cocaine prior to the shooting in a Denver suburb.
- By Haley Samsel
- September 26, 2019
During a Tuesday hearing that will decide if a Colorado teenager stands trial for a May school shooting, a defense lawyer presented evidence arguing that her client was pressured into participating in the shooting by a boy who recently befriended him.
Nineteen-year-old Devon Erickson is charged with assisting his classmate Alec McKinney in a shooting that killed one classmate and injured eight others at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a school outside of Denver.
Both handguns used in the shooting belonged to Erickson’s parents and were taken from a safe in the family home by the teenagers. They broke into the safe with an ax and headed back to school to carry out the attack, according to police investigators.
Now, Erickson and his lawyer, Julia Stancil, say that Erickson was threatened by McKinney while they were in the home. They say that after using cocaine, McKinney threatened to shoot Erickson if he didn’t go along with the plan for the shooting, which was allegedly motivated by McKinney’s grudges against people who bullied him for being transgender. McKinney told police a similar account.
In addition, McKinney recorded Snapchat videos of him yelling at Erickson and pressuring him into snorting cocaine, the defense argued. He also doused Erickson’s mom’s car in gasoline, lit it on fire and threatened to burn the house down. When Erickson was apprehended by police following the shooting, he mistakenly believed his house was on fire.
But police investigators have not found evidence to corroborate that McKinney threatened Erickson, according to testimony from Douglas County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Pereira. There are also still questions about which shots came from McKinney and Erickson. Pereira declined to speak about that evidence until after the FBI issues its ballistics report.
Erickson has previously told investigators that he surrendered his gun after being tackled by three students, including Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old student who was killed that day. But another classmate, Brendan Bialy, told police that there was a struggle for the gun and that Erickson had pointed the gun at the three students’ heads.
The defense claims that other eyewitnesses saw Castillo charge Erickson before he could finish telling people not to move, causing the gun to go off accidentally. There were three spent bullet casings found on the floor near Erickson.
Erickson’s hearing is expected to last through Thursday as the court considers whether there is enough evidence to try him for first-degree murder and attempted murder. He has not entered a plea yet.
His former friend McKinney will face a hearing of his own in October. The 16-year-old is currently being charged as an adult, and his defense team is trying to move the case back to juvenile court, according to the Courthouse News Service.