DENVER – The 18-year-old suspect in Tuesday’s shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, and the identity of the student killed days before his senior year was set to end will likely be released, officials said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and Gov. Jared Polis hosted the news conference early Wednesday, flanked by their school and law enforcement partners, and told the northeast Colorado community reeling from another mass shooting to come together for the victims.
“This does not define us. It won’t today and it won’t tomorrow,” Brauchler said, calling the latest shooting an “aberrant” act and urging the community to mourn, to support one another and to continue to send their children to school.
“Our hearts are hurting for them,” Polis said of the school community, adding that he felt “frankly sick” about the latest Colorado shooting.
The authorities said that the adult suspect in the shooting, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, will likely make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday. At the appearance, he will learn the charges on which he has been arrested but he will not face formal charges until at least later this week, should prosecutors bring them.
Spurlock said the Douglas County coroner will also likely release the identity of the 18-year-old male student who was killed in Tuesday’s shooting. The student was one of nine people who were shot at the school.
Spurlock said Wednesday morning that of the eight students who were shot and injured, three remained hospitalized. All three were in intensive care at area hospitals, Spurlock said, but the other six victims had been released. Authorities said Tuesday all of the victims were ages 15 or older.
Spurlock adjusted what he said Tuesday and said the juvenile suspect in the shooting, whose name and age has not been released, was a female. He originally said the suspect was male on Tuesday, but said Wednesday that officials originally thought the suspect was male by their “appearance.”
Sources told KMGH late Tuesday that the juvenile suspect is in the process of transitioning from female to male.
Brauchler said he was unsure if the juvenile would face their first advisement Wednesday and said it was too early to say whether his office would pursue adult charges.
He also urged people to focus on the victims of the shooting rather than the alleged shooters and to remember that the suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Spurlock said that there were “very heroic things that took place” at the school Tuesday and said at least one student encountered the suspects and worked to stop them. He said he had also reviewed video from inside the school showing other heroic acts involving Douglas County deputies and staffers and students at the school.
He described the incident between the student and the alleged shooters as an “encounter” but said he could not elaborate further.
Spurlock said that there were no shots exchanged between officers who responded to the shooting and the alleged shooters and said both suspects were taken into custody. He said he believed one of the suspects had already been restrained by the school’s armed private security officer when deputies got to them. He said the two suspects were not taken into custody at the same location inside the school. The school does not have school resource officers but does employ private, armed security.
Spurlock confirmed that at least two handguns were used in the shooting. High-ranking sources told KMGH Tuesday night that three handguns and a rifle were recovered but said the rifle was not used in the shooting.
Spurlock said officials were working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine how the suspects were able to obtain the guns. He said he could not comment on whether the suspects were talking with law enforcement.
Sources told KMGH Tuesday that the motive of the alleged shooters went beyond bullying and involved revenge and anger toward others at the school and that at least one of the suspects was involved in legal and illegal drug use and had been in therapy. But Spurlock said Wednesday the incident was “too new” to establish a motive. Tuesday's shooting is the first since Columbine in which two shooters were involved.
Spurlock said he could not discuss a possible motive at Wednesday’s news conference but said authorities were “deep” in social media searches and analysis of the suspects’ phones and computers. They are also continuing to interview witnesses, which Spurlock said would still take some time because around 600 of the 1,800 students at the K-12 school were directly affected by the shooting.
Spurlock confirmed that a car seen taken from the home of Erickson on Tuesday night, which had graffiti spray-painted onto it that read, “F--- society,” was being analyzed as evidence but said he had no specific information on the graffiti.
Police were called to the school in Highlands Ranch just before 2 p.m. Tuesday . Spurlock said that deputies were at the school two minutes after the initial call, and praised the work of first responders to the scene.
STEM School Highlands Ranch will be closed for at least the rest of the week, the district said Tuesday night. Other Douglas County schools are open Wednesday but have extra security on-site. There are grief counselors available for the STEM community at the school, and there will be a crisis support center available to all STEM School students and families at the St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, starting at 8 a.m.
The district is asking for new or gently used blankets to be donated for STEM students, staff and families to give out at the crisis support center. Anyone who wishes to donate can drop the blankets off at the school district's building, located at 620 Wilcox Street in Castle Rock, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Friday was set to be the last day of school for the STEM seniors, which included the 18-year-old man who had his life taken Tuesday and the 18-year-old man accused of forever disrupting so many others.