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The Douglas County courthouse in Castle Rock on Oct. 30, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

The plan for the May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch was for one of the shooters to be killed in the end and the other to be “a hero.”

That’s according to Alec McKinney, who pleaded guilty last year to dozens of charges, including first-degree murder, for his role in the attack. He told the jury that he and Devon Erickson, who is on trial for the shooting, started forming an elaborate plan weeks in advance — a plan that ended with eight students injured and one dead.  

McKinney began testifying Tuesday in Erickson’s trial. Erickson is facing similar charges for his alleged role in the attack, which left one student dead and several others wounded. 

“As the plan did progress, we decided it would be best if we blamed it all on me,” McKinney said. “(Erickson) was going to shoot me to make it look like he tried to save everyone … he wanted to come off as the hero.” 

In an opening statement at the start of the trial in May, Erickson’s defense team claimed that their client had actually wanted to stop the attack from happening. They said that several factors ,including Erickson’s age, drug use and sleep deprivation, played into the decisions he made the day of the shooting. 

But in the beginning of his testimony, McKinney told a different story.


Elliott Wenzler wrote about politics, water, housing, and other topics for The Colorado Sun from October 2022 through September 2023. She has covered community issues in Colorado since 2019, including for Colorado Community Media. She has been...