Los Angeles (AFP) – Two teenagers accused of opening fire at a school in the US state of Colorado this month, killing one student and wounding eight, were charged Wednesday with murder.
Devon Erickson, 18, faces 48 allegations including murder and attempted murder as well as charges related to providing the second suspect Maya McKinney with a gun.
McKinney — who in the eyes of the court is female but considers herself a male and goes by the name “Alec” — is also charged with murder, and prosecutors say they intend to try the 16-year-old as an adult, opening the door to harsher sentencing.
A television broadcast of Wednesday’s court proceedings showed Erickson, his bushy hair dyed a shade of purple, sitting silently as charges were read out against him.
Erickson and McKinney are accused of attacking the Highlands Ranch STEM school, which has some 1,800 students and offers classes from kindergarten through high school.
Witnesses say 18-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo was killed after he stepped between the gunmen and his classmates.
Several hundred people were expected to attend a ceremony in his memory on Wednesday.
Though police arrived minutes after the shooting began, an armed security guard “neutralized” one of the suspects, which the local sheriff said averted a much higher death toll.
School shootings have become frequent in the US, fueling controversy over the availability of guns in the country.
One study put the number of firearms at 393 million, more than the country’s population.
The Highlands Ranch STEM school is just seven miles (11 kilometers) from Columbine High School, site of one of the deadliest school shootings in the US that left 13 people dead in 1999.