During the final moments of his life, an 18-year-old boy who came face-to-face with a shooter put aside his own safety and died protecting his fellow students. The young hero was a student at the STEM School in Colorado. He saw two teenagers open fire at his school, and his first instinct was to intervene and save the lives of the other students.
However, the two shooters—Devon Erickson and Alec McKinney—claimed Kendrick’s life that day with a single bullet and left eight people injured.
Before Kendrick lost his life, he had a conversation with his father about what he would do if he ever saw a shooter right in front of him. “You don’t have to be the hero,” his father, John Castillo, recalled telling his son. But the teenager told his father he would do whatever he could to save others from losing their lives. “‘You raised me this way. You raised me to be a good person. That’s what I’m doing,'” his father remembered Kendrick telling him.
On the day of the shooting, Kendrick did exactly what he said he would when the shooters opened fire. “That’s when Kendrick lunged at him, 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,” his classmate, Nui Giasolli. “I think I wouldn’t be standing here right now, I think I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories for how brave Kendrick was…” Kendrick was one among the brave heroes that day who “made that choice to sacrifice themselves so that all of us could go home that night,” Nui added.
Now, more than two years after Kendrick’s death, his classmate Devon was convicted for the shooting in June 2021. He will most likely stay behind bars for the rest of his life after being convicted for several crimes, including attempted murder and first-degree murder. The other shooter, Alec, had previously received a sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and other charges.
When Devon’s verdict was read out in court, there was an emotional moment shared by the victims, who gave each other a pat on the shoulder when the guilty verdicts were read out. “I’m sure Kendrick was looking down on us today. This day is justice for him,” his father, John, said that day. “I never thought I’d be fighting for justice for a crime that should never have happened.”
Following the verdicts, Gov. Jared Polis recalled Kendrick’s bravery and said it “will never be forgotten.” “Just over two years ago we lost a real Colorado hero who died trying to protect others,” Polis said. “We can find solace in the fact that the people responsible for this tragic and unthinkable event will be held accountable.”