Bullets flew at the Douglas County sheriff’s deputies as they rounded the corner, forcing them to jump back into the the limited protection of an alcove inside STEM School Highlands Ranch.
But the bullets weren’t coming from the school shooter they were looking for. A security guard, who already had detained one of the suspects, fired at them after seeing one of the deputy’s guns.
“I see a rifle and I see someone carrying it in what looks like a tactical stance,” security guard Shamson Sundara testified Friday at the trial of one of the alleged shooters.
“Immediately, I fired in that direction,” he said.
Sundara’s bullets missed the deputies but penetrated a wall and struck two students in a classroom, injuring them. Sundara’s testimony Friday is the first time he’s spoken publicly about what happened in the school on May 7, 2019, when two students opened fire inside, killing 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and injuring eight others.
The guard’s appearance on the stand came during the sixth day of testimony in the trial of Devon Erickson, 20, who faces 48 criminal charges including two for first-degree felony murder.
Former students have testified to seeing Erickson enter their English class and pull a gun out of his guitar case before being tackled by Castillo. Prosecutors have alleged that Erickson killed Castillo, not his accomplice and the purported planner of the shooting, Alec McKinney.
McKinney, 18, is serving a life sentence plus 38 years after pleading guilty in February to first-degree murder and more than a dozen other charges.
Sundara said he was sitting in the break room of the elementary school section of the campus on May 7, 2019, when he heard what sounded like scuffling over the radio. But nobody on the channel would answer his questions about what was happening. Soon, the lockdown alarm went off and he started looking for what was going on.
He found McKinney in a hallway, seemingly trying to get into a classroom, Sundara testified. As Sundara approached, McKinney put a gun to his head.
“Security, security, get on the ground! Drop the weapon!” Sundara recalled yelling.
McKinney complied and Sundara held him at gunpoint. Sundara tried to ask McKinney whether there were more shooters or more guns, but McKinney’s answers didn’t make sense, Sundara testified. McKinney asked Sundara to kill him, Sundara said.
After taking McKinney’s gun, Sundara led the teen down the hallway to find a safer place to stand.
Prosecutors on Friday played security footage of the Douglas County deputies, some in plain clothes and some in uniform, entering the school and immediately jumping back in response to gunfire.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May investigated whether Sundara’s actions were criminal in the wake of the shooting. Sundara was not supposed to carry a firearm on school property, but in lieu of criminal charges he agreed to enter into an adult diversion program, complete 50 hours of community service and participate in a restorative justice program with the students he shot.
Prosecutors on Friday asked Sundara why he carried a prohibited weapon despite it being illegal.
“I felt it was in the best interest…” Sundara started to reply, before being cut off by an objection from the defense. Attorneys did not return to the topic.
Sundara retained his job at the security company, BOSS High Level Protection, after the shooting. The company’s president in a previous interview called him a hero.
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