Teen gunman to be sentenced in Colorado school shooting

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The younger of two students charged in a school shooting in suburban Denver last spring is scheduled to be sentenced Friday during a hearing in which those affected by the shooting, including the parents of a student who died trying to stop the attack, will speak about how their lives have changed.

In February, Alec McKinney pleaded guilty under a plea deal to a reduced number of felonies, including a first-degree murder charge, in the May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch that killed Kendrick Castillo, 18. McKinney was 16 at the time of the shooting so, even though he was prosecuted as an adult, he could be paroled after about 25 years in prison no matter what sentence he receives unlike his alleged conspirator, Devon Erickson, who was 18 at the time.

The minimum sentence for first-degree murder for a juvenile is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years while the minimum sentence for an adult is life without the possibility of parole.

McKinney pleaded guilty to charges for the wounding of six other people who were allegedly shot by either McKinney or Erickson and two other people who were mistakenly shot by a security guard responding to the shooting.

A judge could sentence McKinney to serve sentences for all the counts at the same time of his life sentence for the murder count or could tack on extra years for each of the other 16 counts on top of the life sentence.

Erickson, 19, has pleaded not guilty to all the same charges McKinney originally faced in the shooting. His lawyers have portrayed McKinney as the ringleader who pressured Erickson to participate. He is scheduled to go on trial in late September.

He will not face the death penalty if he is convicted. Colorado became the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty this year but Erickson could have still been eligible for it because the shooting happened before that law was passed. While Castillos' parents supported pursing capital punishment, District Attorney George Brauchler decided not to, noting that Erickson's lawyers could have argued against it because of his age, lack of a criminal history and other mitigating factors.


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