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Judge rules that case against adult STEM School shooting suspect can proceed to trial

Preliminary hearing wrapped up Wednesday
Posted: 1:19 PM, Sep 25, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-25 16:59:43-04
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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. – A Douglas County District Court judge announced Wednesday afternoon that the felony case against alleged STEM School shooter Devon Erickson, 19, can proceed to trial after a 1 ½ day preliminary hearing.

Judge Theresa Michelle Slade issued her decision around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and ruled Erickson will be held without bond pending his next court appearance.

On Wednesday morning, prosecutors again called the lead investigator on the case, Douglas County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Pereira. Pereira was the only witness called by prosecutors or the defense. He was questioned by prosecutors and cross-examined by Erickson’s defense attorneys through all of Tuesday’s session.

Both prosecutors and the defense gave closing arguments before court went to recess. Prosecutors argued – as they have over the past day – that the defense’s argument that Erickson was being forced into the shooting by his alleged co-conspirator, 16-year-old Alec McKinney, was not applicable during a preliminary hearing, whose purpose is determining whether felony charges move forward.

The prosecutors argued that defense could be used at a possible trial, but argued that there was a conspiracy between Erickson and McKinney to plan and commit the shooting and that Erickson was complicit. They claimed that Pereira’s testimony showed a vast number of inconsistencies between the accounts of the two suspects and other friends and witnesses that failed to show that Erickson had been forced into the shooting and not taken part on his own regard.

Prosecutors have a burden of “proof evident/presumption great” on the first-degree murder charges that Erickson faces, and argued Wednesday that he was at least complicit in agreeing to block the doorway of the classroom so no students could escape and so McKinney could shoot people.

Regarding the other counts, prosecutors argued they had proven evidence showed he stole the weapons, burned the car, went to school with weapons, blocked the exit, pointed his gun at people and fired four times. They argued that is enough to show those counts should proceed.

They also argued that the only reason he could not fire more times was because his gun jammed, as Pereira testified on Tuesday, and that the many inconsistencies between McKinney’s and Erickson’s stories – including that Erickson lied about giving up his gun willingly and what he told students when he entered the classroom: to “get down,” as he claimed, or, “Don’t f---ing move,” as other witnesses claimed.

They said his conduct at the school and beforehand constituted him being extremely indifferent to respecting human life.

Defense attorneys argued that the fact that students were injured did not suggest a first-degree intent to murder them, regarding the dozens of attempted murder charges both Erickson and McKinney face, and that some students had claimed they didn’t think Erickson intended to kill 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo intentionally. Castillo was killed in the May 7 shooting and eight other students were injured.

They also argued that the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing does not meet the “proof evident/presumption great” burden and that Erickson should be allowed out on bond should the case move forward.

Erickson faces 44 felony counts, including two separate counts of first-degree murder along with dozens of other counts of attempted first-degree murder. He also faces several misdemeanors.

McKinney is set for a status hearing on Sept. 30, a preliminary hearing on Nov. 18 and a reverse transfer hearing, which would determine whether to send the case back to juvenile court, is set for Nov. 19-26.

Neither Erickson nor McKinney have entered pleas in their respective cases.

Erickson's arraignemnt is set for Dec. 6 at 1:30 p.m.