Denver STEM School Shooting

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Parents comfort each other at the scene of a shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Tom Cooper/Getty Images)

When a gunman burst through the door at STEM School Highland Ranch, barking at students to stay in place and not move, Castillo, 18, rushed the shooter. It was a quick-thinking move that fellow students said gave them a chance to bolt for safety or take cover under desks.

“Kendrick lunged at (the gunman), and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” senior Nui Giasolli told NBC News on Wednesday morning. Other students helped Castillo tackle the shooter, classmates said.

On Tuesday afternoon, two suspects — 18-year-old Devon Erickson and an unidentified juvenile girl — opened fire at the Colorado middle school, where they killed one boy and injured eight others.

One STEM student, an 8-year-old boy named Makai Dickson, indicated to the New York Times that he and his classmates had been preparing for a school shooting for years, doing active-shooter drills since he was in kindergarten. “I’d never heard it before.”

Another student, senior Nui Giasolli, was in a British literature course when one of the shooters — a male classmate — pulled out a gun. After the suspect arrived late to class, she told the Today show, “The next thing I know he is pulling a gun and is telling nobody to move.”

She watched three other classmates, including 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, rush the gunman to protect their peers.“Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick,” she said, “giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape.” Castillo, who was set to graduate in three days, was later confirmed dead.

A third, unnamed student told CBS that they at first believed they were just having a drill, but as the gunfire continued, they “heard yelling, like at first a younger voice and then [they] heard police a little bit later.”

“Everyone was sort of spread out across the room just hiding,” another student said. A 17-year-old boy named Tyler Rush recalled turning off the lights and huddling in the corner with his classmates to the New York Times. “Some cried,” according to the outlet. “Some sat paralyzed.”

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the pair walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch and began shooting students in two classrooms. Within minutes, deputies at a nearby sheriff’s department substation entered the school and arrested the two suspects after a struggle.

“I have to believe that the quick response of the officers that got inside that school helped save lives,” Spurlock said.