A man who repeatedly joked about school shootings has been convicted of murdering a schoolmate who lunged at him as he opened fire in class.
Devon Erickson, 20, was found guilty of first-degree murder at a court in Denver, Colorado, on Tuesday afternoon just a day-and-a-half after jurors retired to deliberate.
Erickson stood with his hands clasped and a face mask as Tuesday's 48-count indictment was read out, and appeared calm.
He and his accomplice Alec McKinney - who previously admitted the same charges - walked into the STEM School in Highlands Ranch on May 7, 2019 carrying handguns and other weapons hidden in guitar cases. Both killers attended the school at the time.
Students in that room were watching The Princess Bride as part of their British literature studies in a dark room.
Kendrick Castillo, 18, and two friends jumped up from their desks and managed to shove Erickson against a wall. Erickson fired off several rounds, and fatally struck Castillo, who was later hailed as a hero for his courageous actions.
Erickson is said to have been a chronic drug abuser at the time, with his substance abuse said to have left him unable to think clearly.
He was charged with a total of 48 counts, including 31 counts of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree.
Devn Erickson is pictured in court in May 2019. He was convicted of murder on Tuesday
McKinney was previously sentenced to life plus 38 years after striking a plea deal which saw him admit to 17 charges.
He initially claimed to have forced Erickson into opening his parents' gun safe and to snort a line of cocaine, with Erickson's lawyers using that behavior to try and claim that their client acted under duress.
McKinney, who is transgender, has since said that Erickson's behavior was voluntary, and rubbished claims that his accomplice was forced to accompany him on the shooting spree.
Last Friday, defense toxicologist Wanda Guidry testified that Erickson's drug abuse, malnourishment and long-term sleep deprivation and insomnia meant he 'couldn't think, concentrate or understand' what was going on on the day of the shooting.
'I believe it created psychiatric symptoms ... disruption in mood, behavior and thinking,' Guidry said of the drugs found in Erickson´s system hours after the shooting. 'He had a very difficult time figuring out or thinking of what he needed to do, what was right or what he wanted to do.'
Defense attorneys rested their case Friday without testimony from Erickson. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Monday, followed by jury deliberations.
Erickson, 20, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges in the May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch that killed 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and injured eight others. The other student charged in the shooting, 18-year-old Alec McKinney, pleaded guilty in February 2020 and is eligible for parole because he was a juvenile at the time of the attack.
Erickson was 18 at the time and could face life in prison without parole if he is convicted.
FILE - In this May 15, 2019, file photo, Devon Erickson appears in court at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo. Erickson one of the suspects in a fatal attack at STEM School Highlands Ranch in May 2019 had become such a chronic drug user in the months before the shooting that he likely 'couldn't think, concentrate or understand' events around him that day, a toxicologist called by the defense testified Friday, June 11, 2021. Erickson has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the school shooting that killed 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and injured eight others. (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File)
Chief Deputy District Attorney George Brauchler argued that Erickson agreed to participate in the attack as long as it looked like he was pressured into it and or could emerge as a hero by killing McKinney.
Brauchler said the students' concocted 'victim-hero' strategy unraveled after Castillo rushed Erickson when he pulled out a gun inside a darkened classroom as students watched a movie. Erickson´s gun went off, Castillo was killed and others tackled him, he said.
Their other possible scenario, in which McKinney killed himself, was stymied after an armed security guard apprehended him, Brauchler said.
Erickson´s lawyer, Julia Stancil, said her client was manipulated into joining the attack by McKinney, a new friend who preyed on him during a family crisis.
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