Suspected Colorado STEM shooter was a bully, made jokes about school shootings, students say

One of the students accused of opening fire at a Denver area STEM school, killing one student and wounding eight other people, bullied younger kids and would make jokes about shooting up the school, students said.

The suspected shooter, Devon Erickson, "would whisper, like get really close and kinda put his arm around you, and whisper in your ear, ‘don’t come to school tomorrow,'" said Kevin Cole, a former student of STEM School Highlands Ranch, during an interview on "Today."

Erickson, 18, and a juvenile, who police identify as a girl but who prefers male pronouns, are accused of entering the K-12 school with handguns Tuesday. NBC News is not identifying the juvenile suspect.

Kendrick Castillo, 18, was fatally shot, and eight others were hospitalized. Several of the shooting victims have been released, and two are still in serious condition.

One student told "Today" that the scene — which unfolded three days before Highlands Ranch seniors' last day of school — was chaotic.

"We heard yelling, we heard police tackling, screaming, singing — shockingly singing. And it was heart-wrenching," the student said. "I can still hear them faintly. I can still hear them screaming and singing."

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Shooting at Denver-area STEM school
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Shooting at Denver-area STEM school
Joshua Jones, front, who was wounded while trying to stop a gunman involved in the attack on the STEM School Highlands Ranch last week, speaks during a news conference as his mother, Lorie, looks on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Littleton, Colo. Jones, Kendrick Castillo and Brendan Bialy tackled the teen who opened fire at the school south of Denver on May 7. Castillo was fatally shot. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Lorie Jones, back, makes a point while her son Joshua, who was wounded while trying to stop a gunman involved in the attack on the STEM School Highlands Ranch last week, looks on during a news conference Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Littleton, Colo. Jones, Kendrick Castillo and Brendan Bialy tackled the teen who opened fire at the school south of Denver on May 7. Castillo was fatally shot. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Jones, back, considers a question as his son, Joshua, who was wounded while trying to stop a gunman involved in the attack on the STEM School Highlands Ranch last week, looks on during a news conference Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Littleton, Colo. Jones, Kendrick Castillo and Brendan Bialy tackled the teen who opened fire at the school south of Denver on May 7. Castillo was fatally shot. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Brendan Bialy jokes with reporters as he recounts his role in stopping the attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. Eighteen-year-old Bialy said he, Kendrick Castillo and a third student tried to stop the gunman on Tuesday by charging at him at the STEM School Highlands Ranch. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Brendan Bialy hands back a microphone after he spoke about his role in stopping the attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch during a news conference Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. Bialy is a member of the Marines' Delayed Entry program and the Marines say Bialy put his own safety at risk and showed "courage and commitment" in helping tackle a gunman on Tuesday in the STEM School Highlands Ranch in the south Denver suburbs. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Brendan Bialy, third from left, joins mother Dena Martin, right, father Brad Bialy, far left, and attorney Mark Bryant to speak about his role in stopping the attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch during a news conference Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. Eighteen-year-old Bialy said he, Kendrick Castillo and a third student tried to stop the gunman by charging at him during Tuesday's attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Devon Erickson, an accused STEM School shooter, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo., Wednesday, May 8, 2019. The attackers were identified by law enforcement officials as 18-year-old Erickson and a younger student who is a juvenile and was not named. They allegedly walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch through an entrance without metal detectors and opened fire in two classrooms. (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Devon Erickson, an accused STEM school shooter, signs paperwork during his advisement at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo., Wednesday, May 8, 2019. The attackers were identified by law enforcement officials as 18-year-old Erickson and a younger student who is a juvenile and was not named. They allegedly walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch through an entrance without metal detectors and opened fire in two classrooms. (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Devon Erickson, an accused STEM school shooter, answers the judge during his advisement at the Douglas County Courthouse in Castle Rock, Colo., Wednesday, May 8, 2019. The attackers were identified by law enforcement officials as 18-year-old Erickson and a younger student who is a juvenile and was not named. They allegedly walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch through an entrance without metal detectors and opened fire in two classrooms. (Joe Amon/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
A photograph of student Kendrick Castillo stands amid a display of tributes outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch a week after the attack on the school that left Castillo dead and others injured, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A display grows outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch a week after the attack on the school that left one student dead and others injured, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Student Kendrick Castillo pictured in the display was was fatally wounded in the May 7 shooting. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Young women console each other during a community vigil to honor the victims and survivors of yesterday's fatal shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Display grows outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch a week after the attack on the school that left one student dead and others injured Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Attendees illuminate their mobile telephones during a community vigil to honor the victims and survivors of yesterday's fatal shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, late Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
RETRANSMIT WITH ALTERNATE CROP Officials guide students off a bus and into a recreation center where they were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Parents gather in a circle to pray at a recreation center where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A parent leaves the recreation center where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, right, confers with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis during a news conference on Tuesday's shooting at a charter school, Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A Douglas County, Colo., Sheriff's Department deputy walks the perimeter of the parking lot outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch after a shooting Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A Douglas County, Colo., Sheriff's Department vehicle blocks the entrance to the west parking lot of the STEM School Highlands Ranch after a shooting Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
School buses arrive at a recreation center set up for students to get reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A parent leaves with a child from the recreation center where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Fire and police gather at the recreation center where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Parents leave a recreation center with their child where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Parents hug as they wait for the arrival of their children at the recreation center where the students were reunited with their parents Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Students step off a bus and head into a recreation center where they were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Students are led from a bus into a recreation center where they were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Documents obtained by NBC affiliate KUSA show that a parent warned school officials of "a repeat of Columbine" months before shots were fired Tuesday afternoon.

In December 2018, a school district director sent a letter to Highlands Ranch executive director Penny Eucker saying a district official had received an anonymous call from a Highlands Ranch parent expressing concerns about the school and accusing administrators of a wide range of misconduct.

The parent said the school suffered from "an extremely high drug culture," "student violence due to a high pressure environment," the letter said. The parent also reported bullying, "safety issues," instances of sexual assault, and a recent bomb threat.

"The individual called it 'the perfect storm' - 'group think' and students ... are susceptible to 'copy-catting,'" the letter said. "The individual expressed concerns about a repeat of Columbine or Arapahoe."

Twelve students and a teacher were killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999, before the two gunmen killed themselves, and one student died after the shooting at Arapahoe High School on Dec. 13, 2013. That shooter also turned the gun on himself.

The parent said school officials had ignored her concerns. She also alleged that students had learned to build a bomb in school, students had smeared feces on the walls and were forced to clean it up with no gloves, and accused a teacher of hitting a student. The parent also asked for a financial audit at the school alleging that "money is being sent to China and Mexico," the letter said.

Highlands Ranch parents were notified in February of some accusations made during the call, a letter from Eucker and a member of the school board showed.

"These outrageous accusations of criminal behavior of our outstanding and dedicated volunteer board threatens their very professions. An investigation by STEM Board and staff leadership revealed no evidence of these allegations,” the letter said.

The school filed a lawsuit, denying all of the allegations and accusing the parent caller of slander and invasion of privacy. The lawsuit sought to issue a subpoena for phone records that would reveal the identity of the caller.

STEM School Highlands Ranch officials, district officials and Eucker did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letters and lawsuit in the wake of Tuesday's shooting.

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