CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — The younger of two students charged in a school shooting in suburban Denver that killed a classmate pleaded guilty on Friday under an agreement that gives him a chance to be paroled after serving about 25 years in prison.
Alec McKinney, 16, pleaded guilty to 17 felonies, including a first-degree murder charge, in the May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch that killed Kendrick Castillo, 18. He will be sentenced May 18.
Even though McKinney was prosecuted as an adult, he is a juvenile and thus faces less time in prison than if he had committed the crimes as an adult.
The minimum sentence for first-degree murder for a juvenile is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. The minimum sentence for an adult is life without the possibility of parole.
A judge could sentence McKinney to serve sentences for all the counts at the same time of his life sentence for the murder count or could tack on extra years for each of the other 16 counts on top of the life sentence.
No matter how long his sentence, McKinney would be eligible to be released from prison within 20 or 25 years under a 2016 state law that applies to inmates sentenced when they were juveniles, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said after the court hearing.
The law allows them to apply to enter a three-year prison program after they have served 25 years, or earlier if they have earned prison credits, in order to win an earlier parole, he said. Accepting responsibility for their conduct is one of the factors that must be met to enter the program.
“This would go a long way toward that,” Brauchler said of McKinney’s guilty plea.
Devon Erickson, 19, has pleaded not guilty to the same charges McKinney faced in the shooting. His lawyers have portrayed McKinney as the ringleader who pressured Erickson to participate.
Castillo was among the students who rushed Erickson after authorities say he pulled out his gun in a classroom.
McKinney pleaded guilty to charges for the wounding of six other people who were allegedly shot by either McKinney or Erickson and two other people who were mistakenly shot by a security guard responding to the shooting.