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Student tells of tackling Colorado school gunman

The story emerged as two teenagers made their first appearances in court over the attack at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado.

Brendan Bialy (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Brendan Bialy (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A school pupil has told how he and two fellow students leapt up from their desks to tackle a gunman in a US school with no thought for their own safety after they spotted the gun.

They slammed a teenage classmate against a wall and struggled with him when shots rang out, then one of the three, Kendrick Castillo, who led the charge, slumped to the ground.

His close friend Brendan Bialy wrestled the gun away and called out to Mr Castillo, but there was no response, Mr Bialy told a roomful of reporters as he recalled what happened at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado.

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Brendan Bialy addresses reporters (David Zalubowski/AP)

“Kendrick went out as a hero,” Mr Bialy said. “He was a foot away from the shooter and instead of running the opposite direction he ran toward it.”

Authorities said the actions of Mr Castillo, Mr Bialy and Joshua Jones minimised the bloodshed from Tuesday’s attack at the school south of Denver that wounded eight students along with killing 18-year-old Mr Castillo.

The injured includes Mr Jones, who was shot twice, according to a statement released by his family.

Mr Bialy acknowledged that he was scared, but he said he was not going to cower for attackers he repeatedly called cowards.

“They lost,” he said. “They completely and utterly lost to good people.”

He was speaking as two teenagers made their first court appearances in connection with the shooting.

Devon Erickson, 18, kept his head down with his black hair, streaked with purple dye, covering his face as he nodded in response to most of District Court Judge Theresa Slade’s questions.

At one point, the judge requested a verbal answer to whether he had any questions about the proceedings. Erickson simply replied “No”.

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Devon Erickson in court (Joe Amon/Denver Post/AP)

Maya McKinney, 16, whose lawyer said uses male pronouns and the name Alec, and has short brown hair, made eye contact with the judge and answered questions in a clear but quiet voice, saying “Yes, your honour” and “No, your honour”.

District attorney George Brauchler said he has not decided whether to file adult charges but added that McKinney is old enough to be charged as an adult without a judge’s review.

Formal charges are expected to be filed by Friday. Mr Brauchler said he could not discuss any motive or weapons used in the attack.

Both suspects were students at the school, and they were not previously known to authorities, officials said.

Because the attack happened a few miles from Columbine High School, just weeks after the shooting’s 20th anniversary, questions quickly arose about whether it was inspired by the 1999 massacre, but investigators offered no immediate motive.

A member of the school’s robotics club and a relentless tinkerer, Mr Castillo had an infectious smile and gentle sense of humour, according to friends.

He worked part-time at a local manufacturing company that had offered him a job after an internship because he was such a standout employee.

“To find he went down as a hero, I’m not surprised. That’s exactly who Kendrick was,” said Rachel Short, president of the company, Baccara.

PA

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