By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – The two Colorado teenagers accused of opening fire with handguns at their Denver-area charter school this week, killing one classmate and wounding eight others, are due to face formal charges in court next week, authorities said on Friday.
Devon Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, who was listed on the court docket by the name Maya Elizabeth McKinney but who identifies as male, were both arrested on suspicion of a single count of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted murder immediately after Tuesday’s shooting.
During separate initial court appearances on Wednesday, Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade ordered them held without bond pending a presentment of actual charges.
They are due to back in court on May 15 to face formal state charges, a spokeswoman for District Attorney George Brauchler said by email on Friday.
The proceedings were initially set for Friday, but were postponed by the court, the spokeswoman said. She declined to comment on the reason for the postponement.
At next week’s hearing, Brauchler is expected to inform the court whether he will charge McKinney as an adult or juvenile.
If a juvenile is charged as an adult under Colorado law, the defense can still request that the case be transferred to juvenile court. If the defense invokes that right, a lengthy process ensues to determine how the case will proceed, according to Bob Grant, a former Colorado district attorney.
The two teens are accused of opening fire on fellow students on Tuesday inside two separate classrooms at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) charter school in Highlands Ranch, about 25 miles south of Denver.
They were arrested by police after several students under fire at the school fought back, including a young U.S. Marine recruit, Brendan Bialy, 18, who survived, and 18-year-old robotics enthusiast Kendrick Ray Castillo, who was killed.
The attack occurred less than a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in nearby Littleton, in which two students shot 13 people to death before committing suicide.
Five months ago, a school district official urged the STEM School’s director to investigate allegations of student bullying and violence by a parent who feared they could lead to the next “Columbine.” The director said an investigation found no evidence to support the allegations.
Precisely what happened inside the STEM school remained unclear as police continued to search for a motive in Tuesday’s attack.
ABC News, citing an unnamed law enforcement official, reported that an armed security guard at the school may have mistakenly fired on sheriff’s deputies called to the scene and wounded a student in the pandemonium.
A sheriff’s office spokeswoman, Deputy Cocha Heyden, said she was not at liberty to comment because “it’s still an open and active investigation.”
Denver’s ABC affiliate television station has reported that the two pistols used in the attack were stolen from the home of Erickson, whose parents had purchased the guns legally.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Steve Gorman, Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)