HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO — The private security guard who accidentally fired at a sheriff’s deputy and shot and wounded an uninvolved student during last spring’s shooting at the Highlands Ranch STEM school should never have been armed, according to records obtained by the Colorado Sun.
Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo was killed as he tried to subdue one of the shooters, and eight others were injured in the May 7 attack. Two students at the school, 18-year-old Devon Erickson and 16-year-old Maya Elizabeth McKinney, face murder and attempted murder charges.
The Colorado Sun’s investigation determined that STEM School Director Leanne Weyman specifically told Boss High Level Protection, the company that employed the security guard, in a September 2018 email the school did “not want an armed guard” because its student body includes elementary students.
“STEM’s security needs and challenges are different than other schools in that our student population includes kindergarten through 12th grade all at the same campus,” STEM School Highlands Ranch said in a written statement to the Colorado Sun. “While it is more common to have armed security personnel at high schools, it is uncommon at elementary schools. Given the diverse population at our school, we made the decision to request an unarmed guard in an effort to balance these different interests.”
Douglas County School District policy allows armed security officers, but only if they are Peace Officer Safeguards and Training-certified. The policy also prohibits uniformed armed security officers from concealing their weapons while engaging in their duties.
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The school district told the Colorado Sun it was unaware security guard Shamson Sundara was armed because his weapon was concealed. A former Marine and Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy, Sundara was hailed as a hero in the immediate aftermath of the STEM School shooting for taking one of the suspects into custody.
At the time, Grant Whitus, the chief operating officer of the security company, said Sundara was “instrumental” in stopping the shooting and that “countless lives would have been lost” if he hadn’t been there.”
Sundara told investigators that he fired twice when he saw a muzzle coming around the corner of a hallway during the chaotic scene, according to an arrest affidavit for one of the students charged in the attack. Both shots missed the officer, but one of the bullets wounded a female student in a classroom, the Denver Post reported.
It’s unclear if Sundara will face charges. Douglas County District Attorney George Brauchler asked Dan May, the lead prosecutor in El Paso County, to investigate the matter, news station KDVR reported.
Because of that investigation, the STEM School severed its relationship with Boss and now uses a full-time resource officer from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, supplemented by private security officers, including off-duty police officers.
The school declined to say if the officers will be armed, citing a need to keep that information private to “protect their effectiveness.”
Erickson and McKinney, the accused shooters, both have been charged as adults. Attorneys for McKinney, who uses a male pronoun and goes by Alec, want his case returned to juvenile court.