Devon Erickson, one of the accused school shooters in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, had a social media presence that included some political posts but also highlighted more mundane interests, from paintball to skateboarding to singing cover songs.
There was nothing overtly visible on the pages that foreshadowed the carnage that was to come; in contrast, the social media of the second accused shooter shows anger toward “STEM kids.” You can read more about that later in this article.
When a school shooting happens, there’s a societal interest in trying to understand what happened in a suspect’s life to drive them down such a path – in the interest of prevention the next time around. When it comes to Erickson’s social media platform, he didn’t let much angst show, nor any glimmers to explain what broke inside, however. (Note: You can see a round up of heroes in mass shooting tragedies, including Highlands Ranch, here.)
John Fenton, a news producer with CBS Denver, wrote that the “car towed from #stemshooting suspect’s home apparently has ‘F*** SOCIETY’ spray painted on the side. Also ‘666’ and a what looks like a pentagram sprayed on the hood.” The sheriff said the “graffiti on” the car is still being analyzed. He said he had no specific information on “what it means or where it came from.”
In posts on social media, Erickson, 18, a registered Democrat (according to Colorado records), shared a post that expressed admiration for former President Barack Obama and shared a post that strongly criticized President Donald Trump. He also expressed hatred for some Christians.
Many of Erickson’s social media posts, at least the older ones, chronicle a youth acting career, everything from Legally Blonde to Les Mis in local theater.
Here’s a round up of Erickson’s social media presence, all of which was reviewed by Heavy right after the school shooting:
YouTube Channel & Snapchat
A YouTube channel in Erickson’s name contained numerous videos of Erickson singing and playing guitar. That took on new currency when two parents told different news outlets that one of the two shooters at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch pulled a firearm out of a guitar case. Authorities have not yet confirmed that account. Here’s another video that appeared on the page:
The channel was up for hours after the school shooting. It’s now been deleted, and this message appears, “This account has been terminated for a violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service.”
Aiden Beatty told The Denver Post that Erickson was the “lead vocalist” in rock bands they made, including one dubbed Foster Home. He told the Post that Erickson had gotten a job as a vocal instructor and that the shooting came out of the blue. He also told the newspaper that Erickson “had conflicts” with other students because he was physically small.
On Snapchat, Erickson’s user name was “devonkillz.”
This above photo is Erickson’s profile picture on Instagram.
On Instagram, Erickson went by the handle @straightblades. The account is still up. On Instagram, Devon wrote in 2018, “I’m only posting one of my senior pictures so people don’t think I dropped out since I don’t take classes at stem anymore.”
Asked on Instagram if he’d turned his hair blonde, he wrote, “it was purple then pink for a little too ?.”
The above photo is the most recent on Devon Erickson’s Instagram page. It dates to March 2019. He included a slew of hashtags: “#aesthetic #aestheticgrunge #aesthetictumblr #grunge #darkaesthetic #darkgrunge #softgrunge #tumblraesthetic #aestheticoutfit #grungetumblr #grungestyle #aestheticposts #tumblrgirl #aestheticgirl #cuteaesthetic #pastelgrunge #softgrunge #softaesthetic #vintagestyle
#tumblrinspo #alternative #gothaesthetic.” A tattoo reading OwO is visible on his arm. It’s a meme from the “furry community,” according to Buzzfeed, and also an “Eastern emoticon” connoting a perplexed expression.
With one post, he wrote, “I’m covered in ink and addicted to pain.”
Erickson’s Facebook page was available for hours after the school shooting and was reviewed by Heavy. It’s now been deleted. Devon Erickson’s Facebook page says he lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. His mother also deleted her page shortly after the school shooting.
Erickson’s Facebook page showed that he was a fan of videogames, paintball, skateboarding, and The Walking Dead. His Facebook posts indicated that he was a guitar-playing youth theater actor who once sent his resume to TWD. On Facebook, under education, he wrote, “OM NOM NOM. Banana, Congo. The Gallifreyan Academy for Timelords.” Under “work,” he wrote, “Nothing Doer.”
“You know what I hate? All these Christians who hate gays, yet in the bible, it says in Deuteronomy 17:12-13, if someone doesn’t do what their priest tells them to do, they are supposed to die. It has plenty of crazy stuff like that,” he wrote in one Facebook post a couple years ago. “But all they get out of it is ‘ewwwwww gays.'” In 2015, Erickson put a celebrate pride filter onto a Facebook picture.
In 2016, he shared a video of Seth Meyers criticizing President Donald Trump, and the year before he shared an Occupy Democrats post praising then President Barack Obama. Newer posts aren’t visible; some of his posts were more mundane. “GO BRONCOS!!!! LETS TAKE DOWN THE PATRIOTS!!!!” read one 2016 post. Pages he liked on Facebook run the gamut, and they included pages devoted to AK47s, PewDiePie, Chuck Norris, and Bruno Mars, among many others.
Here is the other political post that’s visible on his page.
In a post on Facebook, Erickson wrote, “Happy mothers day to the best mother in the world. You have always been there for me and even when I struggle to do things, and when I can’t seem to get things right (I know, I suck at math) you always help me and are super understanding. I love you mom! ??.”
He once dressed as Slenderman for Halloween, although that was in 2012, years ago.
Devon Erickson does make references on his Facebook page to learning guitar.
“Im really sad that I missed Shelly’s memorial service yesterday, I didn’t hear about it until this morning. She was an amazing teacher and really helped me to be a better actor. I will miss her and I was so sad when I heard she passed away. I truly wish she rests in peace,” he wrote in one post from 2015.
Responding to a comment on that post, he wrote, “Doing a lot of acting and singing. Even learning guitar. What about you?”
Not that long ago, Devon Erickson appeared to have a thriving future as a youth actor in local theater productions. For example, in 2015, he urged friends on Facebook to attend a Legally Blonde play held by a local youth theater organization. “Come see me…and others in Legally Blonde JR!” he wrote. A friend responded that he saw Erickson in the play and said he was “great.”
He also posted older photos of himself acting in a production of “Les Mis.” In 2014, he wrote, “Guys and Dolls Jr. Im going to miss everyone so much!” He also wrote, “Hey everyone. None of you know this but I am sending in a resume to be in The Walking Dead Season 5. The chances are 1/1000000 but I still have a chance. Wish me luck.”
A Facebook post by Devon Erickson read, “Made a custom longboard. Didn’t have much time so it’s just dots and not stars on the top. Lots of fun to make! Either way this is what it looks like.” It was painted with the face of a clown named “Riddles.”
He’d also checked in to play paintball in the Denver area.
Erickson’s Twitter page is still up, but it’s pretty scant. He hadn’t posted since 2018. The page does give a clue about his interests, as the profile reads, “I make music I guess.”
A Wikipedia Edit?
Fox31 reported that “nine days ago, someone added chilling notations to the Wikipedia page of the STEM School Highlands Ranch.” It’s not clear whether it was related to the shooting. However, the comments were added next to an article on the page that read, “Anti suicide programs are implemented to help lower chances of suicide and school shootings.” On April 29, this was added to the page: “Do they work? We shall see.”
Erickson and the accused second shooter, Alec McKinney, a juvenile, are accused of wounding nine students in the K-12 STEM school located in Douglas County. One of those students, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, died heroically in the attack after confronting one of the shooters.
Classmate Nui Giasolli confirmed that Castillo lunged at a gunman who entered her British literature class “giving us all enough time to get underneath our desks to get ourselves safe, to run across the room to escape,” according to BBC. His father, John Castillo, told The Denver Post: “His character is about protecting people, helping people.” Another hero who confronted the gunman is Brendan Bialy, credited with tackling the gunman along with Castillo.
In court for the first time on May 8, Erickson bowed his head, his purple hair dangling over his face. He’s facing more than two dozen charges. He shook his head to answer some of the judge’s questions. At one point, he answered “no” when asked whether he had questions.
You can watch video of the court appearance here:
Alec is identified in court records as Maya McKinney, but a Denver television station and friends say that McKinney is transgender and transitioning to male. The second suspect uses the name Alec McKinney on social media, so Heavy is using that name. The judge didn’t allow video or photos in McKinney’s court hearing; Noelle Phillips of The Denver Post reported that McKinney’s lawyer said McKinney goes by Alec and uses the pronoun he.
You can read about Alec here. He showed overt anger to what he referred to as “STEM kids.”
A friend of both of them wrote on Instagram that Devon “did not do what he did because he’s liberal or to make a statement. He did it due to internal struggles. They’re both struggling with mental health issues and this is a time for awareness. Alec did not do this because he’s trans, but had people supported him in the way that he needed and deserved, he would not have struggled so much that he got pushed over the edge.”
The friend also wrote that they didn’t allegedly act because of hate for others but rather “hate in themselves” and called for more support for LGBT youth. She added that they did a “horrible thing.”
McKinney’s Twitter profile picture shows him with Erickson.
The Denver Channel wrote that multiple sources say “the second suspect, who is a minor, is a transgender male who was in the midst of transitioning from female to male.” The motive, the station alleges, “went beyond bullying and involved revenge and anger towards others at the school,” adding that one suspect “was involved in legal and illegal drug use and had been in therapy.”
Both suspects were students at the STEM school, the sheriff said.
The school’s full name is STEM School Highlands Ranch, and it’s located at 8773 S. Ridgeline Blvd.