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Kendrick Castillo remembered 3 years later

Three years ago Saturday, Kendrick Castillo lunged at one of the shooters that opened fire at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — For John and Maria Castillo, a windy day at the site where their son is buried brings them close. 

“You know, I used to tell Maria when we come out here, I feel Kendrick in the wind. But he must be really with us today because you know it’s a little bit windier than normal," John said. 

Three years ago Saturday, their son, Kendrick Castillo, lunged at one of the shooters that opened fire at STEM School Highlands Ranch. 

Kendrick protected his classmates, but lost his life doing so.

Notes of gratitude and remembrance for Kendrick's sacrifice were written in chalk on a gazebo near where he was laid to rest. 

“I was just reading the messages people left today for Kendrick… there was one that said you know ‘Kendrick saved my life.' Those types of messages just really resonate…touch your heart…” his father shared. 

Credit: Taken by Alex Castillo
John Castillo (left) and Maria Castillo (right) sit together in the cemetery near their son, Kendrick Castillo's headstone.

After a memorial service in the morning, several people laid flowers and spoke to the Castillos at the cemetery.

 “He loved technology, robotics, wanted to be an aerospace engineer, but Kendrick was – he had the – the grace built into him to turn off electronics and technology and load his friends into his Jeep and go find a trail in our foothills. That’s why this place is so special, I mean it just represents him," John said, referring to the location of the cemetery in Douglas County. 

Meanwhile, a local brewery held a memorial fundraiser for Kendrick Castillo, which his parents went to later. 

The Castillo family says they're grateful for the outpouring of support throughout the last few years. 

“It’s bittersweet, it’s humbling…we…I wish we could say today is worse than any other day but, you know, every day is tough for Maria and I," John shared. “It feels good that you know strong people in community have supported us through this horrific event and today we get to see many of them so it felt pretty good.”

Credit: Taken by Alex Castillo
Two people sit in front of the headstone of Kendrick Castillo, where flowers are laid down.

Moving forward, John and Maria say they'll continue advocating for change. 

“The change is for safer schools, transparency through our schools. And when I say that I mean reporting threats through threat assessments so that families can just – much like we would check our students grades on a portal you’d be able to see how many bad events are taking place in a school – and I don’t mean small disciplinary things – but things that rise to the call to have police intervention or mental health intervention. I think that every parent deserves the right to see that wherever they put their kids," John said.

John and Maria Castillo filed a lawsuit against the school and expect to go to trial on Sept. 19, according to their attorney, Dan Caplis. 

The Castillos are able to sue because of the Claire Davis School Safety Act, which "imposes a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for schools if a school fails to exercise 'reasonable care' to protect all students, faculty and staff from 'reasonably foreseeable' acts of violence that occurs at school or a school-sponsored activity."

Among other things alleged in the complaint filed in 2021, the school had a credible warning of the attack that killed Kendrick Castillo eight days before.

9NEWS legal expert Scott Robinson said he believes this would be the first high-profile case to go to trial under the act.

RELATED: Witness: Kendrick Castillo didn't hesitate when he realized there was a shooter

RELATED: 'I had to take his fingers and pry them off the firearm': Student describes subduing suspect during STEM School shooting