Transgender Colorado STEM Shooter Motivated by Revenge Over Pronouns, Bullying

On May 7, two teens opened fire in the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., injuring eight students and claiming the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who heroically sacrificed himself to stop the shooting. Early rumors suggested one of the shooters was transgender, and court documents released Thursday confirm that one of the suspects was motivated to carry out the shooting due to other students rejecting her gender identity.

During a police interview, 18-year-old Devon Erickson said 16-year-old biological female Maya McKinney — who identifies as male and goes by the name Alec — warned him not to go to school the night before the shooting.

According to the Snapchat message, McKinney told Erickson she wanted to get revenge "on a lot of people." She told police that classmates called her "disgusting," made fun of her, and referred to her "as a she," despite her transgender identity, the Associated Press reported.

McKinney also told investigators that she had specific targets at the school in mind, but "wanted everyone in that school to suffer from trauma like he has in his life and to realize that the world is a bad place."

The teenagers confessed to breaking into a gun safe at Erickson's home before the shooting. McKinney told police she threatened Erickson with an ax to get him to help open the gun safe using the ax and a crowbar. They found three handguns and a rifle inside. Both have been charged with murder and attempted murder in the shooting. McKinney has been charged as an adult despite her age. Neither has yet entered a plea.

The newly released document also revealed that a school security guard accidentally shot a female student in the confusion. Several police officers reported that the guard fired twice at a Douglas County Sheriff's lieutenant.

The suspects gave differing accounts on the events of the shooting.

Erickson said he saw McKinney reach for a gun and then he decided to shout for everyone to get down. He said he saw two students rush toward him and said their impact "prompted the gun to go off." He later "described being in shock and stated he didn't want anyone to get shot."

McKinney told police they entered the room simultaneously, yelling, "nobody move." She said she opened fire after hearing Erickson shoot. She recalled having "shot the revolver until it was empty and then shot the Glock until it was empty" before being tackled by students and a teacher. McKinney said she escaped and ran, intending to kill herself with the remaining weapon, but surrendered to a security guard in the hallway.

Erickson claimed McKinney was the mastermind and told police that he wanted to stop his friend. Police wrote that the accomplice "couldn't articulate how or why he never told an adult."

In a May 8 press conference, the sheriff noted that McKinney is a "juvenile female," noting that "we originally thought the juvenile was a male by appearance."

Yet the police document released this week refers to the teen girl as "he," in accordance with her transgender identity.

Erickson, a registered Democrat, expressed hatred for Christians who uphold the biblical position on traditional sexuality. He also attacked Donald Trump and praised Barack Obama on social media.

"You know what I hate? 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,'" he wrote. (Read more on why this is not a contradiction, and why Christians oppose LGBT pride for theological and cultural reasons, not from a gut reaction.)

Kendrick Castillo, the one casualty, was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic charity that has been demonized by Democrats due to its opposition to LGBT pride.

Sadly, children are being taught that words can be violence and that sexual identity and gender identity are fundamental to their personhood. When President Donald Trump announced that the military would regard people according to their biological sex over their gender identity, activists condemned the move as an attempt to "erase" transgender people.

Bullying is not acceptable, and students should not have told McKinney that she is "disgusting." However, the view that a person's biological sex — determined by DNA from the moment of conception and critical to the hormonal makeup of each individual — is less real than a self-conception of gender identity is extremely controversial and should not be forced on people by liberal dogma. Sadly, dissent from transgender identity is often demonized.

Americans should understand McKinney's anger. After all, this girl suffers from gender dysphoria (the painful and persistent identification of the gender opposite one's biological sex), and she faced social ostracization. That said, no amount of bullying justifies murder, and the toxic ideology of transgender identity can lead to horrific radicalization.

This shooting does not prove or even suggest that transgender people in general are a threat, but the grievances promoted by a pro-transgender culture can become explosive. Americans should be able to disagree on these issues while still being civil to one another, and this shooting tragically shows that civility is breaking down.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.