Transgender teen sentenced to life for killing Kendrick Castillo breaks down, says 'I don't deserve leniency'

Transgender teen sentenced to life for killing Kendrick Castillo breaks down, says 'I don't deserve leniency'
(Getty Images)

DENVER, COLORADO: A 17-year-old transgender student, who was involved in a school shooting in Denver in May 2019, shed tears on Friday, July 24, as he was sentenced to life for murder. The presiding judge also gave Alec McKinney an additional 38 years in prison. The teen reportedly broke down on multiple occasions ahead of sentencing at Douglas County Court as he read out a personal statement, and told the judge: "I don't deserve leniency." McKinney had pleaded guilty to the crime in February under a plea deal to a reduced number of felonies, including a first-degree murder charge.

The May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver resulted in the death of one student and eight others were injured as McKinney and his alleged co-conspirator Devon Erickson, 19, launched the "heartless attack." The student killed in the shooting, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, was shot in the chest as he attempted to tackle Erickson in an effort to take a handgun away from him. Erickson, who has not pleaded guilty to murder charges, is set to face trial later this year. 

McKinney, in a 22-minute statement on Friday, apologized to his friends, family, and the victims and their families. The teen admitted that he does not know "how to describe the sorrow I feel when I think of the victims." The 17-year-old also slammed those who idolize him for the shooting as "stupid," and urged them to seek assistance instead of resorting to what he did. It is believed that McKinney opened fire in his school in retaliation for being bullied because of his gender identity, according to the Daily Mail.

STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting suspect 18 year old Devon Erickson, facing 48 criminal charges makes a court appearance at the Douglas CountyCourthouse May 15, 2019, in Castle Rock, Colorado. (Getty Images)

Over 20 victims also addressed the Friday hearing as they told Judge Jeffrey K Holmes of the horror of the shooting. The slain student's father, John Castillo, also spoke at the hearing, and said: "I condemn you to hell. I will never forgive you, I hate you," he said while addressing McKinney. 

McKinney and Erickson, on the day of the shooting, reportedly broke into the latter's parents' safe to steal firearms. The pair, before driving to school, also set a car on fire and later opened fire on an English call. As the deadly shooting began, a security guard injured the pair and assisted in detaining one of them. After his arrest, McKinney reportedly told police that he was targeting students in school who "always made fun of him, hated him, called him names and said he was disgusting for trying to be a guy."

"I killed their innocence. I killed their ambitions," McKinney in his Friday statement said. "And I killed their sense of security. I not only physically killed people, I mentally killed people too. I don't know how to describe the sorrow I feel when I think of the victims. The horror I caused is truly too much for anyone to bear."

The teen also admitted that he did not know some of the victims of the shooting. "I don't deserve leniency, nor forgiveness. I don't want a lighter sentence,' McKinney continued, and called his actions "horrid, unforgivable, and cowardly' as he hit out at those who idolized him for the shooting and called them 'stupid'. How could you idolize someone who hides behind a gun, who hurt people, who was so weak they couldn't get help," he said. "Don’t be a coward and hide behind a gun. Be brave and learn how to get help. Face what you’re feeling."

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