Alleged Colorado gunman joked about school shootings, a former friend says

Friend says suspect bullied and threatened others

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN
KMGH

Students line up outside, following a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado on Tuesday, May 7, 2019.

(CNN) - One of the suspects in the deadly Colorado school shooting is a bully who joked about shootings and threatened other students for years, a former friend said.

Kevin Cole used to go to STEM School Highlands Ranch, where one student was killed and eight others injured Tuesday in a shooting. Two suspects are in custody and will appear in court next week to hear the charges against them.

One of those alleged shooters was Devon Erickson, 18, who was once a friend of Cole's.

"They couldn't believe that he would actually do it, but they weren't entirely surprised that he did," Cole said of the suspect's friends.

Cole told CNN's Scott McLean on Friday that Erickson had a pattern of bullying, violence and jokes about mass shootings.

He would enter the classroom and say, "when the pencil hits the floor I'm going to start shooting." Then, he would spend the rest of class sporadically dropping pencils, Cole said of the suspect.

And sometimes, the "jokes" were more like threats.

"He would just get really close and kind of hunch himself over your shoulder as you were sitting down, and he would just whisper in your ear 'don't come to school tomorrow' and just kind of crack a smile and walk back to his seat," Cole said.

People would write it off as "that was just a Devon thing" and laugh, Cole said.

CNN has reached out to the STEM school.

Suspect was also violent, former student says

The two drifted apart after the alleged shooter started bullying Cole's brother, spreading rumors and spending class periods taunting him, he said.

The bullying never got physical with Cole's brother, he said, but it did with others.

The alleged gunman would get into fights when people he didn't like made him mad, Cole said. He described an incident in the eighth grade when he said the alleged gunman choked one of his own friends with a rubber tube in the middle of class.

He probably thought it was playful, Cole said, but the friend had to go home that day. Cole didn't know if there were any consequences to that incident.

"That's how he got his kicks, that's what he thought was funny is if he could get a reaction out of you," Cole said.

The two teenage suspects in the deadly mass shooting at the charter school will appear in court next week to hear the charges against them.

Erickson and 16-year-old Alec McKinney, both students at the school, will face murder, attempted murder and perhaps other charges, said George Brauchler, district attorney for Douglas and other counties. He said he's considering charging McKinney as an adult.

Their hearings were scheduled for Friday but have been moved to Wednesday morning, the district attorney's office said.

CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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