Meet the Hero from the Robotics Team Who Died Rushing the Colorodo STEM Shooter
On Tuesday, a shooter targeted the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Kendrick Castillo, a brave 18-year-old senior and member of the robotics club, rushed the shooter, losing his life but saving many others. Eight other students were injured.
"Kendrick lunged at [the shooter], and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” senior Nui Giasolli told NBC News on Wednesday.
Other students helped Castillo tackle the shooter, saving her life and the lives of other classmates. These students "were brave enough to bring him down so that all of us could escape and all of us could be reunited with our families. I can't thank them enough."
The Douglas County sheriff confirmed that Castillo was indeed the only casualty from the shooting.
Another student, 18-year-old Brendan Bialy, helped Castillo subdue the shooter. The U.S. Marine Corps confirmed that Bialy is a current poolee — a term designating someone who has signed up but has not yet entered the Corps.
"Brendan’s courage and commitment to swiftly ending this tragic incident at the risk of his own safety is admirable and inspiring," the Marines said. "His decisive actions resulted in the safety and protection of his teachers and fellow classmates." He is scheduled to report to training this summer.
John Castillo, the deceased boy's father, praised his son as a hero. He said he wished the boy, his only son, had hid to save himself, but that wasn't his character.
"It doesn’t surprise me," the bereaved father told The Denver Post. "He cared enough about people that he would do something like that, even though it’s against my better judgment. I wish he had gone and hid, but that’s not his character. His character is about protecting people, helping people."
"I had a hard time accepting that," the father added.
Castillo likely drew his heroism from his faith. His friend Cece Bedard told The Denver Post that their fathers brought them to meetings of the Roman Catholic charity Knights of Columbus. Castillo implemented the organization's mission of helping others, the boy's friend said.
"He told me he wanted to be a Knights of Columbus because he wanted to help not only people, but his community," Bedard said. "He was the bravest soul I’ve ever met and never even cared what others thought because he was too busy finding ways to make you smile."
"You know what I hate?" the shooter wrote on Facebook in 2014. "All these Christians who hate gays, yet in the Bible, it says in Deuteronomy 17:12-13, if someone doesn't do what their priest tells them to do, they are supposed to die. It has plenty of crazy stuff like that. But all they get out of it is 'ewwwwww gays.'"
This anti-Christian animus echoes mainstream comments from Democrats running for president such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Harris and other Senate Democrats demonized the Knights of Columbus for holding traditional Christian positions on sexuality.
Yet Democrats rightly joined with Republicans in praising Castillo's bravery. Jared Polis, Colorado's first openly gay governor, commemorated the hero on Twitter.
"Colorado hero Kendrick Castillo lost his life saving others. Kendrick, 18, lunged towards the gunman and helped prevent an even worse tragedy. Colorado will always remember the heroism of Kendrick Castillo," Polis tweeted.
Even Kamala Harris herself, perhaps oblivious to the fact that this hero was a member of the Knights of Columbus, rightly praised him.
"Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo was killed while defending his classmates at STEM School Highlands Ranch. He saved lives. Kendrick is a hero," she tweeted.
A classmate, Aaron Busche, said that even in middle school, Castillo stood out for his selflessness.
"He was not afraid to stand up for what he thought was right," Busche recalled. "The way he died was very much in his nature. He always prioritized others before himself."
John Castillo said his son loved science, especially robotics. He was a member of the varsity robotics team that his father coached.
Kendrick Castillo had just three more days of school before graduating. He was planning to attend Arapahoe Community College in the fall, where he hoped to major in mechanical or electrical engineering.
The boy's father said he loved the outdoors, including four-wheeling, fishing, and hunting.
"My wife and I are in a haze," the bereaved father said. "He was everything to us."
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.