Student Who Tackled Colorado Gunman Planning to Join Marines

By Zachary Stieber

One of the students who tackled one of the Colorado school shooters is planning to join the U.S. Marines.

Devon Erickson, 18, walked into his British literature class at STEM Highlands Ranch, a K-12 school just outside of Denver, on May 7 and started shooting.

Kendrick Castillo, also 18, reacted by lunging at Erickson. Castillo died from his wounds.

That’s when three other students, including Brendan Bialy, tackled Erickson.

Brendan Bialy, a senior at STEM Highlands Ranch, was one of the students credited with stopping a gunman at the school on May 7, 2019. (Brendan Bialy/Instagram)

Bialy, a senior, is enrolled in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program, the 8th Marine Corps District confirmed in a statement to NBC.

“Brendan’s courage and commitment to swiftly ending this tragic incident at the risk of his own safety is admirable and inspiring,” the 8th District Marines said.

“We are deeply saddened for the victims, families, friends, and community,” the Bialy family added in a statement. “We’d like to commend the immediate response of law enforcement and assure all we are strong with the love of our families, community, friends, and everyone sending concern, wishes, and strength. We will persevere.”

Bialy’s family said that the senior is planning to enter the U.S. Marines after graduating. Bialy posted several pictures on Instagram of himself in July 2018 at a U.S. Marine station, writing: “We out here straight conducting our Oath of Enlistment for the United States Marine Corps. One step closer, fellas.”

In a statement sent to 9News reporter Katie Eastman, the family’s lawyer, Mark Bryant, added, “When I spoke to him he was still in shock and primarily concerned with the victims and their families!”

“He was very defiant at these senseless and horrendous actions. This young man like many of our young youth are compelled by their families, communities, and own internal convictions and strength to act immediately and selflessly. His message is strength to all!” Bryant said.

Meanwhile, police said on Wednesday that at least two handguns were used in the shooting, which left one dead and eight wounded.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told reporters that the suspects, 18-year-old Devon Erickson and a “juvenile female,” had a “number of weapons,” including two handguns they were not old enough to buy or own.

Second suspect is a girl
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock at a press conference regarding the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, on May 8, 2019. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

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

Josh Dutton, 18, said he was close friends with Erickson in middle school but had not seen him for four years as he attended a different high school. On Sunday, he spotted Erickson at a local light rail station and said he was shocked at how much his friend had changed. Erickson wore all black, a hat and sunglasses, was significantly thinner and did not seem interested in talking.

“He said he’d just turned 18 and he owned rifles,” Dutton said.

Douglas County District Attorney George Brauchler said the community remains resilient in the face of multiple shootings, including Columbine, the 2012 theater shooting in the Denver suburb of Aurora, and the 2013 shooting at Arapahoe High School.

The attacks are “aberrant acts” although they might seem otherwise to the rest of the world, he said.

A parent leaves the recreation center where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver K-12 school in Highlands Ranch, Colo., on May 7, 2019. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“Who we are is a kind, compassionate, caring people, and this does not define us. It won’t today and it won’t tomorrow,” he said.

Spurlock said one of the suspects was detained by the school’s security guard, who was employed by Boss High Level Protection.

The owner, Grant Whitus, said the security guard is a former Marine who ran to the area of the shootings and confronted one of the armed students in a hallway.

“He doesn’t even realize how many lives he saved by stopping a school shooting,” Whitus said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.