DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — A counselor at STEM School Highlands Ranch testified Thursday that the 16-year-old suspect in the deadly May shooting had been the subject of a Safe2Tell tip months ahead of the attack.
The tip indicated that Alec McKinney made remarks about suicide and cutting himself, according to Wright. When she followed up with McKinney on Nov. 5, Wright said that he told her he was struggling that day and if he had a way to ensure he would die by suicide, he would do it.
McKinney is currently charged as an adult. Earlier this week, a judge ruled there is enough evidence for the case against him to go to trial. A reverse transfer hearing continues to determine whether the case should be moved back to juvenile court.
McKinney and his co-defendant, 19-year-old Devon Erickson, are charged with 46 separate counts, including two counts of first-degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and 31 counts of attempted first-degree murder.
They're accused of carrying out the May 7 shooting that left one student dead and eight other students shot. One of those students was wounded after she was accidentally hit by a private security officer’s bullet, according to the arrest affidavit in the case.
Kendrick Castillo,18, was killed when he and other classmates lunged at one of the two gunmen.
On Thursday prosecutors continued their efforts to show that McKinney should be tried in adult court.
Wright, the counselor, testified that she and another counselor decided to contact police to also interview him. As a result, she said, McKinney was taken to the hospital on a mental health hold.
Wright testified that she contacted McKinney's mom on Nov. 6 and was "shocked" to learn that he was back in school. She noted that every other student who had been referred to the hospital was held for a minimum of 72 hours.
She also described McKinney as "manipulative" and when asked if he was bullied she testified she "wasn't aware of anything happening to Alec." She was then asked if he was a bully himself, she paused before saying he was usually the leader in social groups.
The prosecution's first witness was Krista Husak with the Colorado Division of Youth Services (DYS). She testified that the goal is to transition youth offenders back into society by age 21.
She also testified that offenders can be granted passes to leave facilities where they're being held. Prosecutors noted in the past that offenders have gotten into trouble during that leave.
However, during cross-examination, defense attorneys asked if those passes could be given to offenders who had been sentenced to life and Husak replied, "no." Juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison serve their initial sentence in a juvenile detention facility before being transferred to an adult facility.
Husak also said when questioned that the DYS has had issues with drugs, escapes and staff retention.
Alec McKinney's family physician, an English teacher at his school and his boss at Jersey Mike's also testified Thursday.
Earlier this week, defense attorneys called witnesses to bolster their argument that McKinney should be tried in juvenile court. They included a social studies teacher who called him a model student and said he "always goes above and beyond.”
McKinney's mother Morgan McKinney testified Wednesday and recounted physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband that she said Alec McKinney witnessed. She also said she had recently learned from Alec McKinney that he had been sexually abused when he was 7 years old.
The prosecution countered that the alleged abuse happened more than 10 years ago and that Alec McKinney had never been the direct target of one of his father’s violent outbursts.
Jennifer Krous testified on Thursday afternoon, her son was shot and a bullet shattered his rib, she said.
Krous said her son was the one to call her about the shooting.
“All I heard on the other line was ‘ma,’” she said the breathing sounded agonizing then her son said, “mama help me” then she heard “aah.”
Krous said her son was lucky because his friend applied pressure on his wound, and the doctor said that if the bullet hadn’t deflected, it would have hit his heart.
She said her son was on the list of kids the suspects wanted dead and he’s still trying to understand why. She also said her son now feels guilty that he was targeted by name but another friend who wasn’t named was the one killed.
“It’ll never be the same,” she said. “We’re scared for our safety… we have a real fear that someone is going to come finish this all off”
Also a mother of a student shot was Jane Gregory. During testimony on Thursday afternoon, she said her son was shot in the arm and the bullet was stuck in his back.
During shooting, Gregory said her son jumped over the desk, grabbed McKinney and dragged him into the hallway. She said he feels guilty for not having done more.
Her son was transported to Skyridge, “I ran two red lights on my way to Skyridge,” she said.
Gregory said her son is now a college student and comes home almost every weekend and still really only wants to be with his high school friends. She said she doesn’t think he’s told anyone in college what happened aside from his roommates.
Gregory also said she works at a school and it’s hard to see kids have to practice drills, hiding in a dark room and hearing “those” announcements.
The reverse transfer hearing is expected to wrap up Tuesday of next week.
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