“In this room is terror:” Trial for accused STEM shooting gunman begins Thursday

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FILE – In this May 8, 2019 file photo bouquets of flowers sit on the sign outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A jury of 12 people and four alternates have been selected in the trial against one of the accused STEM School shooters. Opening arguments began Thursday afternoon.

The deadly shooting happened in May 2019 at the school, which is located in Highlands Ranch.

The suspect, who was present in the courtroom Thursday, is facing 46 counts, including two first-degree murder charges and 31 first-degree attempted murder charges.

This undated photo provided by Rachel Short shows Kendrick Castillo, who was killed during a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Rachel Short via AP)

Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo was killed in the shooting. He has been hailed as a hero for joining other classmates to rush the suspect during the attack, possibly saving lives and others from being injured.

In addition to Castillo’s death, eight other people were hurt in the shooting.

The man on trial Thursday was a STEM school student and is accused of partnering with another then-student to accomplish the shooting that day. The other student was convicted of 17 charges last year and was been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole in 40 years.

“In this room is terror,” a prosecutor said of the defendant during opening statements. “Two people came there to massacre [students],” he said, gesturing to a photograph of the schoolroom where the shooting occurred.

He played surveillance video, captured in a school hallway, as the shooting took place, as well as the recording of a 911 call made by a teacher inside the building. That teacher’s voice broke as she described what she was hearing, from inside her classroom, to the dispatcher.

Other clips played by the prosecution included law enforcement interviews of the defendant and additional surveillance videos.

The defense team also took the stand for opening statements, calling the trial “a case of mental health,” citing drug abuse, sleep deprivation, and other personal issues suffered by the defendant.

The defense said her client did not intend to kill.

“[The suspect] is not a demon,” she said. “He’s not a monster. He’s not evil. He’s a funny, witty, sarcastic kid.”

She described him as a music-lover, with many interests, and friends.

“He really took it to heart when people bullied others,” she said.

The trial is scheduled through June 25 in Douglas County District Court.

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