This past Tuesday, two teenagers opened fire on K-12 STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado. It was only a few days before the last day of school and the students in Ms. Harper’s English classroom were watching a movie during the last period of the day. A student walked in late and pulled a gun on the class. Eighteen-year-old senior Kendrick Castillo lunged at him, tackling him to the ground in an effort to protect others. He was shot dead. Late Wednesday, a vigil was held in honor of this young hero who gave up his life for his friends, but, as USA Today reported, it ended up turning into a protest.
More than 2,000 students gathered for the vigil which was supposed to be a memorial for the fallen student. However, it ended up becoming a demonstration protesting politics and the media. The controversy began when Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jason Crow took the stage at the event to give a speech. They emphasized the need for gun control to bring an end to senseless tragedies such as this one. Many of the students felt it simply wasn’t the time or place to talk politics in the wake of the very recent tragedy. They began to get up and walk out, with some chanting “mental health.”
Kendrick Castillo, 18, lunged after one of the gunmen from yesterday’s #StemShooting, giving his life to save countless of his classmates.— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) May 8, 2019
This brave member of the @Frc4418 robotics club sadly was killed just days before his graduation.
Our heroes deserve life. #RestInPower pic.twitter.com/RNZe2KLCJ5
Other students yelled “political stunt” and “we are people, not a statement” as Bennett and Crow spoke. The event itself was the third memorial of the day for Castillo and was organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The group issued a public apology following the disastrous event, emphasizing that the focus right now should really be upon offering support to the many students affected by this tragedy.
“We are deeply sorry any part of this vigil did not provide the support, caring and sense of community we sought to foster and facilitate and which we know is so crucial to communities who suffer the trauma of gun violence.”
Devon Erickson is the 18-year-old suspect in the shooting that has since been taken into custody. The second suspect has now been officially identified in court documents as 16-year-old Alec McKinney, a transgender student who identifies as male.
Despite the darkness surrounding the schools, Castillo’s classmates smiled while recalling his wonderful personality, according to The New York Times.
“He cared about his faith and his family and friends more than himself or anything,” said 17-year-old Sara Stacks.