With tears running down his cheeks, a STEM School Highlands Ranch teacher presented the first blue and white honor cords of the technology student honor society to a 2019 graduating senior.
Instead of draping them around a student’s neck, teacher Mike Shellenberger stepped off a church’s stage and draped the cords across Kendrick Castillo’s casket. He then hugged Castillo’s parents, John and Maria, as part of the memorial service for the 18-year-old senior who died trying to protect his classmates from a school shooter.
The service featured remembrances from classmates, teachers and his father.
Shallenberger spoke about a whip-smart student, who often knew more than his teacher and who demonstrated loads of patience when he struggled to figure out the mechanics behind a project.
Robotics were a huge part of Castillo’s life, and a former classmate and teammate talked about how he trusted Castillo from the moment he joined the team as a freshman. Dakota Mann also spoke of his friend’s love of the outdoors and off-roading in Jeeps.
“The world we live in is one he helped create. And while it is a poor substitution, we know he is hear for us through every single day,” Mann said. “No matter how small his influence on each and every one of us, we have love in our hearts that he chopped, riveted and welded together. You all know his name — Kendrick Castillo. He died for us. Now, it’s time for us to live for him.”
Before the service, hundreds of Jeeps rolled toward Cherry Hills Community Church in honor of Castillo, a Jeep enthusiast.
A procession of Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies and other law enforcement officials led a formal procession to the church — the first time the sheriff’s office did so for a civilian. It’s an honor normally reserved for fallen officers, but Castillo’s actions warranted something greater, Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cocha Heyden said.
“This was an 18-year-old who just wanted to go to school that day and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Heyden said. “Law enforcement officers sign up to do that; we sign up to take that risk. A school-aged kid doesn’t. We felt it was the least we could do to honor Kendrick.”
Robots lined the sidewalk outside the church because Castillo was a robotics enthusiast and on his school’s team. He also loved Jeeps.
Just before the memorial began, Gov. Jared Police declared Wednesday Kendrick Castillo Day in Colorado. “Rest In Peace, Kendrick. Your bravery won’t be forgotton,” the governor tweeted. Polis also changed his Twitter profile picture to one of Castillo.
I declare today Kendrick Castillo Day in Colorado as we remember the life of the 18-year-old hero who died saving others in last week’s STEM School shooting in Highlands Ranch.
Rest In Peace, Kendrick. Your bravery won’t be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/erjvq4qAr9
— Jared Polis (@GovofCO) May 15, 2019
Kendrick Castillo was sitting at his desk watching a movie last Tuesday when a classmate entered his 12th-grade British Literature class, pulled out a gun and said, “Nobody move.” Castillo, along with his two friends, instead leaped out of his chair to confront the shooter. The 18-year-old died during the struggle, while eight other students were injured.
The attack — Colorado’s fourth school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre 20 years ago — shocked the suburban community, sending terrified parents rushing to pick up their children, some as young as 5 years old.
Castillo’s friends, Brendan Bialy and Josh Jones, recounted the split-second decisions the three of them took last Tuesday to prevent further bloodshed — remembering their friend as a true hero who was the first to confront the teen gunman. Jones suffered two gunshot wounds during his actions, while Bialy escaped unscathed.
Hours before Castillo’s procession slowly rumbled down Colorado Boulevard in Highlands Ranch on Wednesday, an 18-year-old suspect at the center of the school shooting appeared in Douglas Court, where he was advised of 48 criminal charges, including first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. His 16-year-old co-defendant, who also appeared in court Wednesday morning, faces at lease one count of first-degree murder, and 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler announced he would charge the juvenile as an adult.
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