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With precise and chilling detail, STEM School Highlands Ranch graduate Brendan Bialy described how in the blink of an eye his longtime friend and classmate threw his body against accused killer Devon Erickson only to topple seconds later with a fatal gunshot wound.
Bialy, 20, on Friday morning spent an hour describing to jurors in Erickson’s felony murder trial how he, Kendrick Castillo and Joshua Jones attacked Erickson the moment he pulled out a handgun and demanded that everyone in their British literature class not move.
It took only seconds for the three students to swarm Erickson, 20, but not before he fired off a shot or two, one of them hitting Castillo, Bialy told the Douglas County District Court jury.
“Once I saw Kendrick go up and push him against the wall, then I got up out of my seat and went up against him,” Bialy said, his voice steady and resolved. “Was I scared? I don’t recall feeling fear at that point, only at the moment he pulled out the handgun. I don’t recall thinking he was going to shoot. It was just a shock.”
Erickson faces 48 criminal charges including two for first-degree felony murder in the death of Castillo. Erickson, who was 18 at the time of the May 2019 shooting, faces life in prison without the possibility for parole if convicted.
A second gunman, Alec McKinney, 18, is serving a life sentence plus 38 years after pleading guilty in February to 15 criminal charges, including first-degree murder. Because he was 16 and a juvenile at the time of the shooting, he is eligible by law for parole after 40 years.
Castillo was the only fatality but eight others were injured. Erickson is accused of firing the fatal shot that killed Castillo while wounding at least two others.
Erickson’s defense team has said the teen was troubled and easily manipulated by the homicidal McKinney and actually wanted to stop the shooting from happening but was too afraid.
Prosecutors said Erickson was as calculating as McKinney, pointing to several opportunities where he could have warned adults about the plot but didn’t.
Bialy is the first witness in the trial that’s expected to last at least three weeks. He told the jury that he and Jones had to pry Erickson’s fingers from a .45-caliber handgun just as Erickson struggled to turn the gun on them.
“He was facedown with the gun in his right hand,” Bialy said. “He was attempting to reach the trigger. I attempted to pull his fingers off the gun. I had to fight for it.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney George Brauchler emphatically noted that Erickson never tried to give up the weapon, which he had hidden in a guitar case, nor willingly surrendered when confronted. He only showed remorse when the students disarmed him.
“At that point, he stopped and started to say, ‘I’m sorry. Alec made me do it,’” Bialy testified.
He said that’s when he noticed Jones suffered two gunshot wounds to the legs and that Castillo was not moving.
He described holding the gun Erickson had, removing its magazine and then attempting to revive Castillo before finding the bullet hole that felled his classmate.
Bialy said he was unaware of McKinney’s involvement in the shooting from the other side of the room and only saw him handcuffed in a hallway. A school security guard ordered Bialy onto the floor, then fired a shot or two down the hallway before putting the weapon down as sheriff’s deputies stormed the school, Bialy said.
Testimony was to resume Friday.