HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — The parents of the teen shot and killed at STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday say their son was a hero and they want the public to know what a great kid he was.
“I want people to know about him,” John Castillo said through tears. "He was extraordinary."
Like so many other parents, John and Maria Castillo rushed to the Highlands Ranch Rec Center on Tuesday afternoon shortly after the shooting.
"We were frantically looking for him," John said. "Trying to get in touch with him, sending texts and phone calls and he wasn't returning them."
While other families were reconnecting, John and Maria were growing more and more panicked.
"I was texting and I tried to FaceTime him and I was getting nothing," John said. "And my anxiety and my lump in my chest was growing, you know, I just couldn't believe it."
The Castillos said their fears were confirmed when they went to Littleton Adventist Hospital and Kendrick was not there. A friend also approached John and offered a sympathetic message.
"He just said that he was sorry," John said. "I didn't comprehend what that meant at the time."
Eyewitnesses say Kendrick died a hero.
"One of the kids told me that, like a flash, (Kendrick) jumped out," John said. "She said, 'You know, he really saved me. He jumped up and ran.' She said, 'You can't even see how fast he is running. You know, out the door and after this person.'"
Kendrick's moment of heroism likely saved countless other children.
"In that moment, he could have run," said neighbor Liz Mueller. "He could have decided not to take action. And yet, in that split second, he made the decision to help."
Kendrick Castillo was a senior at STEM School and Friday would have been his last day of school. Photos from social media show the young man participating in competitions with the school’s robotics team and posing with friends before attending his first prom.
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Castillo was killed when two students entered STEM School armed with handguns just before 2 p.m. Tuesday and opened fire. Eight students were injured and three students remained in area hospitals Wednesday morning, officials said.
"I'd like the world to know that this wasn't your average kid," John said. "He was extraordinary. We raised him to be good. I know that because of what he did, others are alive. And I thank God for that. I love him. And he's a hero. He always will be."
"My immediate reaction was not knowing his condition, that he was maybe just injured, and he was going to be OK," John Castillo said.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said there were "very heroic things" that took place inside the school, including students attempting to stop the shooters. Kendrick Castillo was one of those students.
"I was so excited for his future and watching his parents and how proud they were of him," Mueller said. "I'm really going to miss hearing his Jeep pull up — the music, the loud music. I mean, he was a typical 18-year-old boy."
Authorities said they had two suspects in custody — an adult male and a juvenile.
STEM School Highlands Ranch will be closed for at least the rest of the week, the district said Tuesday night. Other Douglas County schools are open Wednesday but have extra security on-site. There are grief counselors available for the STEM community at the school, and there will be a crisis support center available to all STEM School students and families at the St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch starting at 8 a.m.