CASTLE ROCK — The 16-year-old suspect in the deadly shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch on Wednesday was charged as an adult, facing allegations of first-degree murder.
Alec McKinney’s attorneys immediately launched an effort to return the case to juvenile court, setting up a mini-trial for a judge to determine how to proceed.
That process, however, could take months to finalize.
Also on Wednesday prosecutors filed formal charges against McKinney’s alleged co-conspirator, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, though the exact number of counts and the details of the accusations were sealed by the judge. Court documents in the case, which likely outline how the alleged crimes were carried out, also have been sealed.
“There are times when it is appropriate to suppress information … for a period of time,” said Douglas County District Court Judge Theresa Slade.
Nevertheless, online court records show 48 counts have been filed against Erickson, including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, interference with school staff, criminal mischief, arson, burglary and providing a handgun to a juvenile.
Erickson and McKinney appeared separately in Douglas County District Court, where the formal charges were handed down. Erickson’s attorneys asked that he not be shackled in court, a request that was denied by the judge.
Both Erickson and McKinney were students at the school.
18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said after Wednesday’s court hearings that it’s too early to say if he will seek the death penalty against Erickson. He cannot seek capital punishment for McKinney because he is a juvenile, even though he is charged as an adult.
“Candidly, I have done no analysis of that issue at all,” Brauchler said.
Brauchler also said that he has appointed 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May to oversee an investigation into a security guard who apprehended one of the alleged shooters. There have been reports that the private guard may have fired his gun at Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies responding to the May 7 attack and that authorities were probing whether any students might have been struck by that gunfire.
“This is a witness in the case,” Brauchler said of the guard. “I felt like, out of an abundance of caution, the facts related to the security guard needed to be addressed by a separate prosecutor.”
The next court hearings in the case are set for June.