“If a picture could talk, this is the one that would say it all.”
That’s how Ashley Michels, a reporter at the Denver Fox affiliate KDVR, summed up an image she and photojournalist Aubrey Morse captured of young students huddled together following the deadly shooting at their Colorado charter school on Tuesday.
The image, which has been widely shared on social media, was taken from footage shot by Morse outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch charter school, where two teenagers students shot and killed a student and injured eight others. During a Wednesday morning press conference, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told reporters that three students remained in “critical care,” but the rest have been released from area hospitals.
Michels said she didn’t speak to the children, but summed up the scene she and Morse captured during KDVR’s evening newscast.
“A little girl in tears. Two classmates holding on tight. And another student wondering why outside her school looks like this,” Michels reported.
Stories relayed by parents paint a traumatic picture of what students at the K-12 school experienced just after 2 p.m. Tuesday. One parent of a 13-year-old student said her son recalled seeing “a body and a trail of blood.” A mother of twins who also attend the school told KDVR her daughter called her as the shooting was taking place
The student who died, identified by classmates as 18-year-old senior Kendrick Castillo, is being hailed as a hero after one of the suspects pulled out a gun and told everyone not to move.
“That’s when Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” senior Nui Giasolli said on the Today show Wednesday morning. Giasolli said three of her classmates tackled the shooter, a move she credited with saving others’ lives.
The suspects — an 18-year-old man and a juvenile female who were students at the school — used two handguns in the shooting and also had a “number of weapons,” according to Spurlock, who told reporters the suspects were too young to buy or own handguns. Spurlock said local authorities were working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to figure out how the teens obtained firearms.
While the 18-year-old suspect has been identified by authorities, District Attorney George Brauchler — who also prosecuted the 2012 Aurora theater gunman — asked journalists to minimally share the suspects’ names and photos in an attempt to limit notoriety they might receive following the shooting.
“We decided as a newsroom after we got the adult suspect’s picture yesterday not to air it and this morning, we aren’t using suspect’s name,” KDVR reporter Emily Allen said.
The Highlands Ranch shooting took place just a week after two students were killed by a gunman at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. This year alone, eight people have been killed and 32 wounded in 30 shootings at K-12 schools in the United States, according to data collected by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
The school is located minutes away from Columbine, which just marked the 20th anniversary of the deaths of 13 people in one of the most notorious school shootings in U.S. history. STEM school was one of hundreds of schools near Denver that closed temporarily last month as law enforcement searched for a Florida woman who the FBI said was “infatuated” with the Columbine attack.
The woman was ultimately found dead April 17 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to authorities.
Brauchler said there have been five high-profile shootings over the past 20 years that have taken place just 20 miles apart in Colorado. In addition to Highlands Ranch, Columbine, and the Aurora movie theatre shootings, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputy Zack Parrish was killed in a 2017 shooting that injured four other deputies and two civilians. In 2013, one student was killed in a shooting at Arapahoe High School that took just 80 seconds. The gunman, also a student, took his own life.