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8 Parker Chronicle

May 17, 2019M

‘He was an angel among us’ Kendrick Castillo was killed while saving others, classmates say BY ALEX DEWIND ADEWIND@COLORADOCOMMUNITYMEDIA.COM

Kendrick Castillo was kind, talented, a hero. Castillo was killed in the May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. He was less than two weeks away from graduation. His senior quote: “The most difficult roads lead us to the most beautiful places.” Penny Eucker, executive director of STEM, called Castillo the “glue of the senior class.” He was always positive, she said. Everyone who met him felt safe with him. “He did have a transcendent smile and he was an angel among us,” Eucker said, holding back tears. “When people say be kind, he was the definition of that.” Castillo, 18, charged a shooter who had entered his classroom in an effort to save others, classmates said. Castillo was a member of FIRST Robotics Competition Team 4418, according to a Facebook post from FIRST. He was also among the first students to intern at Panther Industries, an automated labeling equipment manufacturer in Highlands Ranch, just down the road from STEM. Then just

Kendrick Castillo, 18, was killed in the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7. Here, he is shown at age 16 working on a label-printing product at Panther Industries. FILE PHOTO 16 years old, Castillo was determined to learn all facets of a professional manufacturing job. “Our hearts go out to Kendrick’s family and friends, and to all affected by the shooting,” FIRST, a nonprofit robotics organization based in New Hampshire, wrote on Facebook. Brendan Kerr, a sophomore at STEM, looked up to Castillo, he said. They were in a physical education class together. “He was a good friend,” Kerr said.

“I’ll remember him as a hero.” STEM student Nui Giasolli told NBC’s “Today’’ show that she was in her British literature class when one of the two suspects came in and pulled out a gun. Castillo lunged at the gunman, who shot the teen. Castillo’s swift action gave the rest of the class time to get underneath their desks and then run across the room to escape, Giasolli said. Castillo, friend and classmate Bren-


dark-green Jeep — the same color and model as the one parked in the driveway. “He was the perfect son,” said Maria, a small woman with a gentle smile. “He told me everything. He was my baby.” Four days earlier, Maria and her husband John had lost their 18-yearold son, Kendrick Castillo, the sole fatality in the May 7 school shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. Eight other students were injured in the attack. The two suspects are in custody. Classmates say Kendrick charged one of the shooters to protect other students. That didn’t surprise the people closest to him. “He was one of the most genuine and compassionate people I have ever met,” said Mike Shallenberger, an engineering teacher at STEM who taught Kendrick all four years of high school, as he sat on the Castillos’ back porch. “You don’t meet people like that but once in a lifetime.” The afternoon of Mother’s Day, Maria stood near the front door of her southwest Denver home, tucked in a quiet neighborhood lined with modest single-family houses and spacious backyards. She softly greeted teenagers and parents and directed them to the living room, where John was telling stories of Kendrick to the intimate

Kendrick Castillo was the only child of John and Maria Castillo. His parents described their son as a loving and respectful person who helped others even in competitive situations. They want him to be remembered as an extraordinary individual. COURTESY PHOTO gathering. Comfort food — trays of chocolate chip cookies, Kendrick’s favorite — and assortments of colorful flowers filled the kitchen and dining room. They hugged. They cried. They honored Kendrick, a hero. ‘A lot of hopes and dreams’ Born March 14, 2001, Kendrick was an easy baby and boy with a loving temperament, his dad said. He was honest, not defiant. He respected his

elders and always said “thank you,” “good morning” and “goodbye.” His faith never wavered. Even at the fast-food Taco Bell restaurant, he would make sure to pray before eating. “He respected and loved his mother so much,” said John, sitting on a chair on the back porch, tears welling in his eyes. “Any man in the world whose daughter ended up with Kendrick would, quite honestly, hit the man lottery.” Kendrick’s love for robotics and

dan Bialy said, felt an obligation to protect his fellow students. Bialy said Castillo rushed the shooter and was like a “bowling ball” coming toward him. Bialy said he and another classmate, who was injured and did not want to be identified, helped Castillo bring the suspect down. Bialy, who was not injured, said Castillo was interested in cars and the two met in an internal combustion class at STEM. Bialy said the two of them would cruise around and just talk or watch funny videos together. “Kendrick Castillo died a legend,” Bialy said. “He died a trooper... I love that kid.” Rachel Short said Castillo was a funny and empathetic person who loved others and was a part-time employee at her manufacturing company, Baccara USA, based in Englewood. “To find he went down as a hero, I’m not surprised,” Short said. “That’s exactly who Kendrick was.” Cecilia Bedard, 19, knew Castillo since elementary school and said he was always friendly, modest and excited to help people. He made a point of always joining his father at Knights of Columbus fundraisers and bingo nights. “He was amazing,’’ Bedard said. “He was honestly the sweetest kid I ever met. Never said a mean joke.’’ — Colorado Community Media reporter Nick Puckett and The Associated Press contributed to this report. engineering started early. As a young child he would dismantle his toys, inspecting every inner working, and put them back together in new formations. Whenever he’d get a new gadget, he’d invite his friends over to share in his excitement. The father-son duo enjoyed weekend hunting trips, fishing trips and campouts. They never had much luck but that didn’t matter, as long as they were together. They spent many nights in the backyard, working on old cars. Kendrick loved cars. Kendrick’s parents, who both work in the hotel industry — Maria is a chef and John a chief engineer — prioritized spending time with their son. Eating meals together was important. The three of them would sit on the couch in the evening and eat bowls of ice cream. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat another bowl of ice cream again,” his father said. Kendrick attended Notre Dame Catholic School in Denver for middle and elementary school. When it came to choosing a high school, he wasn’t thrilled with any of the local, neighborhood options, which had a large focus on traditional sports. His passion was engineering and electronics. On his first tour of STEM, Kendrick was like a kid in a candy store, John said. He was especially enthralled with the expansive engineering room. The Castillo family applied for the SEE CASTILLO, P9

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