Catholic student gunned down in Colorado; few reporters ask crucial questions about shooters

Another week, another school shooting, although this latest one in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch has quickly turned into a religion story.

Well, it’s a religion story if reporters note crucial details and ask basic questions.

As I scanned various stories, I learned there was very little news about the shooters, especially some of their more controversial aspects. One was LGBTQ; the other had Satanic symbols on his car, yet that didn’t make it into many media accounts. (As for Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old who died at the scene, he was an only child. I cannot imagine his parents’ sorrow.)

The Denver Post tells us this much at the arraignment:

One of the shooting suspects, Devon Erickson, sat hunched in his chair throughout his hearing where he was advised of the charges he is being held on. As the proceeding continued, the skinny 18-year-old with shaggy black and pink hair curled farther into himself — his bangs nearly touching the defense table by the end.

Alec McKinney — who is charged under the legal name of Maya Elizabeth McKinney but uses male pronouns and the name Alec — sat up straight in his chair. …

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Also, there is this: According to folks who checked out his Facebook account, there was an anti-Christian screed there.

Another student, Aiden Beatty, said that Erickson worked as a vocal instructor and acted in school musicals. Beatty and Erickson formed multiple rock bands together. Beatty said he couldn’t imagine his band mate committing such horror. Nothing on Erickson’s public social media pointed toward violence.

“In my mind he’s pretty much dead,” Beatty said. “He’s effectively killed himself, too, in a terrible and unimaginable way.”

McKinney was transgender and had struggled with personal problems, freshman Ben Lemos said. The two shared a study hall, a lunch group and mutual friends, Lemos said.

“He just had a negative experience with school,” he said.

But the Daily Mail had a lot more interesting details, including how Erickson had “666” and a pentagram spray-painted on the hood of his car.

In case you think they are making this up, a news producer for the Denver affiliate of CBS posted a photo of said car.

Now why isn’t this detail being mentioned much? If the suspect had the words ‘Trust Jesus’ or the like spray-painted instead, would there be a lot more made of it?

A reporter at heavy.com quickly got on social media and cached photos (and lots of other information) from the suspects’ Instagram accounts before anyone else could take them offline. It’s there that we learn that Alec’s Instagram handle was ‘thatgaykidalec’ and that his mother ‘hates the new Alec” and that he missed his dad. So here’s a girl who doesn’t get along with her mom who’s transitioning to be a boy who is without a dad.

Still, I don’t see media picking up on the LGBTQ shooter angles. There’s some sites out there commenting on how a trans kid committing a murder doesn’t fit into the media narrative, hence they’re not reporting on it. Because the child is a juvenile, I understand why reporters must be cautious but when this kid’s friends are posting on Instagram that she/he had mental problems because of the trans issue, it’s sure worth mentioning.

As for the victim, his religious connections have received short shrift as well. The New York Times profiled Castillo, but managed to miss the fact that he’d attended a private Catholic school before transferring to the STEM school where he was killed. The Times’ only religious reference was a friend referring to Castillo’s faith being important to him. We’re not told what that was.

This USA Today story mentioned the boy was often seen “at Knights of Columbus fund-raisers and bingo nights.” Hmmm. What place do you know features such events? Could it be a Catholic church?

Definitely. Catholic News Agency just ran a story on Kendrick’s Catholic faith, so the information was definitely out there.

Why couldn’t other journalists connect the dots? This consistent blindness is wearying at best and a disgrace to the profession at worst.

Well, watch the drama play out with the accused kids in the next few weeks. If we see anything about Erickson’s anti-Christian connections (and I’ve not listed them all) and why McKinney’s trans issues led him to pick up a gun, then I’ll know there’s some objective reporting going on.

If not, you know what that means, too.


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