Kendrick Castillo was named as the student who died in the STEM Highlands Ranch school shooting on Tuesday, May 7. Friends and family members have said that Castillo, 18, died a hero as he tried to prevent his classmates from getting hurt.
Castillo was one of nine students injured after shots were fired inside the K-12 STEM school in Douglas County, Colorado. Castillo’s father, John Castillo, confirmed that his son was the student who was killed to NBC News. He told ABC News his son was a hero. “I want people to know about him,” John Castillo said through tears.
“He was the best kid in the world,” John Castillo told The Denver Post. “It doesn’t surprise me. He cared enough about people that he would do something like that, even though it’s against my better judgment. I wish he had gone and hid but that’s not his character. His character is about protecting people, helping people. I had a hard time accepting that.”
Kendrick’s classmate, Nui Giasolli told CNN that the gunman entered her classroom while they were watching a movie and pulled out a gun. “Kendrick,” she said, “lunged at him and tried to subdue him. As soon as he said, ‘Don’t you move,’ Kendrick lunged, giving us all enough time to hide under our desks, and the shooter ended up shooting Kendrick.”
She said other students also rushed the shooter and subdued him while the rest of the class ran out. Giasolli told CNN, “”They are so brave. They all risked their lives to make sure that 10, 15 of us all got out of that classroom safe and that we were able to go home to our families. … There is nothing greater in this world than these kids willing to do that.”
Castillo’s heroics have led to comparisons between the teenager and University of North Carolina-Charlotte student Riley Howell. A week before the Highlands Ranch attack, Howell was killed while protecting students at UNCC during a mass shooting that killed two people and wounded several others.
Authorities have not confirmed the exact circumstances of Castillo’s death. However, Telemundo’s Maria Paula Ochoa tweeted in Spanish that Castillo “died as a hero, faced the gunmen…seeking to save the lives of his companions.”
In a May 8 press conference, the morning after the shooting, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said he was still not going to name the deceased student per the coroner’s identification. Reporters asked him whether any students acted heroically. “We will hear about very heroic things that have taken place. There was at least one that we can verify, a student that encountered the suspects,” he said. “I suspect… we will find there were many more heroic things.” The sheriff did not name that student, though he did say that employees of the school, other students and officers all took heroic actions.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a student had been killed in a tweet on the night of May 7, less than 24 hours after the shooting, the sheriff’s office confirmed that Castillo had been killed. That message read, “It is with extreme sadness that we can confirm that 1 student at the STEM School was killed in today’s
#stemshooting incident. The immediate family has been notified.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Kendrick Castillo Was Due to Graduate on May 10, 3 Days After the Shooting
CBS Denver’s Mekialaya White reported that Castillo was due to graduate on May 10, three days after he was killed. White added in her tweet that White was active on the school’s robotics team and had a passion for technology.
He was a member of the Highlands Ranch robotics club FRC 4418 Impulse, according to FIRST, a youth non-profit that advocates for STEM education. The organization tweeted, “We’re heartbroken by the death of Kendrick Castillo, a victim of the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting. Kendrick was a member of @Frc4418, of which his father is Lead Mentor. Our hearts go out to Kendrick’s family, friends, & all affected by the shooting.”
A deleted LinkedIn page shows that Castillo was an intern at Baccara USA, an electronic hardware manufacturer, in Denver.
Rachel Short, the company’s CEO, told USA Today that Castillo began an internship at Baccara last year and performed so well they gave him a part-time job. Short said Castillo loved engineering and was always eager to help people. In fact, the 18-year-old planned to major in engineering at a local college in the fall, per BBC.
“To find he went down as a hero, I’m not surprised,” Short told USA Today. “That’s exactly who Kendrick was.”
Cece Bedard, Castillo’s friend, told The Denver Post they went to Knights of Columbus meetings together from a young, as their fathers were members. Bedard told the newspaper Castillo embraced the Catholic organization’s creed of helping others.
“He told me he wanted to be a Knights of Columbus because he wanted to help not only people, but his community. He was the bravest soul I’ve ever met and never even cared what others thought because he was too busy finding ways to make you smile,” Bedard told the newspaper.
John Castillo told the newspaper, “My wife and I are in a haze. He was everything to us.”
Reports immediately began to circulate on social media that Kendrick Castillo died a hero. “He and his classmate saved my daughter’s life today,” a woman who goes by the name Suz Perc wrote on Twitter, referring to Kendrick Castillo. “Both amazing hero’s, their bravery stopped more senseless tragedy. My daughter is home safe because of his sacrifice. True hero’s.”
Giasolli, told the “Today” show that as soon as the suspect took out a gun, “That’s when Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick… give all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape.” Giasolli said there had been other heroic students who “were brave enough to bring him down so that all of us could escape and all of us could be reunited with our families. I can’t thank them enough.”
Her mother, Nyki Giasolli, told CNN, “I will never be able to thank (Kendrick). I have no words other than ‘what a hero.’ … All of these kids are alive because of his sacrifice and because of the sacrifices and the bravery of all the boys that neutralized this student.”
At least one other heroic student, Brendan Bialy, is credited with tackling one of the two gunmen (it’s not clear which one), a family attorney says. His father told The New York Times that “his son told him that two students entered the classroom and one pulled a gun out of a guitar case.” That matches an account provided to Denver7 by another parent.
The elder Bialy also told the Times that “his son and two friends tried to tackle the gunman but one of the boys was shot in the chest.” Brendan Bialy was not wounded. It was not immediately clear whether Kendrick Castillo was among that group.
Both Bialy and Castillo’s stories are not unlike that of Riley Howell, the UNCC shooting victim who died after he tackled the gunman, saving countless people in the process.
The sheriff, Tony Spurlock, described in a news conference how the shooters allegedly went “deep” into the school, opening fire on students in classrooms inside the high school, killing Castillo and leaving seven others injured. One was wielding a handgun, according to Spurlock. The Highlands Ranch STEM school shooting occurred within 10 miles of Columbine.
According to a presser given by Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock following the tragic event, the two suspects in custody were both students at the school. One is a juvenile male, the other is an adult male. Spurlock said that officers engaged the suspects and took them into custody.
There have also been reports that other students took down one of the apparent gunmen, but that has not been confirmed by authorities. “This is something that no one wants to have happen in their community,” Spurlock said.
Of the eight students who were reported to be injured in the shooting, here is what was known: at least one was taken to the Children’s Hospital Colorado South Campus and reported to be in good condition, and at least five were taken to Littleton Adventist Hospital (four of them reported to be in serious condition, one reported to be in fair condition). Two other victims were taken to Sky Ridge Medical Center; their conditions were not known. However, the sheriff also said some were in critical condition.
No staff or officers were reported injured in the incident, per the Sheriff’s Office.
The Suspects Opened Fire in ‘Classrooms,’ According to Spurlock; at Least One Weapon Was Identified to Be a Handgun
According to Spurlock during the news conference, the school employs private security but does not have a school resource officer. He confirmed that the suspects, who are both students of the school, opened fire in “classrooms,” though there were conflicting reports regarding whether they first opened fire in the middle school or the high school.
Spurlock confirmed that one of the weapons used was a handgun; however, it’s not clear if that was the only weapon. Spurlock also didn’t say how many shots were fired in total.