If there was a Chuck Norris award for heroes, I would give it this past week to three students, a football and track coach, and a former marine turned school security guard – all of whom saved countless students from a deadly firing squad.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the news that there was yet another Colorado school shooting two weeks ago, and so tragically but not coincidentally close to the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre and just 10 miles away from its location.
The recent shooting even mirrored Columbine in some respects when two teens (one 18 and the other 16) erupted gunfire killing one student and wounding eight more at STEM School Highlands Ranch charter school, which serves K-12 grades for just under 2,000 students from across the Denver Metro Area. Those two teens each face 48 counts of criminalities, including the 16-year-old who’s being charged as an adult.
My wife, Gena, and I cannot be more sorry and grieve more with the victims of another senseless and barbaric school shooting, especially the families and friends of the student who was fatally shot. We all struggle with the onslaught and increase of these heinous acts across our country.
What is critical not to overlook – and indeed needs to be highlighted and commemorated – are the acts of heroism in these societally degrading moments. They are what are redeemable, and remind us that we Americans are truly better than this. They remind us that we will eventually find a way to overcome and reduce these barbaric acts, and that good will triumph over evil.
This past week on Fox News, we listened intently as 18-year-old senior Joshua Jones described in an interview how he helped tackle one of the attackers at the Denver suburban school and even placed a call to his mother while holding down one of the gunmen.
Joshua was in his British literature class when a classmate pulled a gun and said “Nobody move.” (Investigators now know the two shooters were in separate classrooms.)
Without any training in self-defense, Joshua explained he instinctively ran toward the gunman: “There wasn’t a whole lot that was going through my mind at the time. Adrenaline and tunnel vision are a crazy thing. They make it so that you don’t really focus on anything but what’s right in front of your face at that moment.”
Joshua and two other classmates, Kendrick Castillo and Brendan Bialy, together jumped the students who wielded the gun. Joshua was shot twice in the leg, but still managed to subdue the killer while asking his buddy Bialy to give him his phone to make the special call to his mother.
His mom, Lorie Jones, described to reporters her son’s calm demeanor on the phone: “He said, ‘Mom this has happened, we’ve been … I’ve been involved in a school shooting, I was shot a couple of times in the leg, but I’m okay.’ My first concern obviously is, ‘Josh, are you bleeding?’, and he’s like, ‘Just a little.’ So he was really trying to protect me [too].”
Fellow student, Brendan Bialy, who just joined the U.S. Marines and ships out to basic training this summer, helped Joshua subdue the shooter. Bialy actually wrestled the gun from the shooter’s hand.
USA Today reported that Capt. Michael Maggitti said in a statement: “Brendan’s courage and commitment to swiftly ending this tragic incident at the risk of his own safety is admirable and inspiring. His decisive actions resulted in the safety and protection of his teachers and fellow classmates.”
As far as the second shooter, he was captured by an armed security guard, whose name has not yet been revealed. He is employed by BOSS High Level Protection, and was hired by the school. His presence and fast action are one more proof why gun free zones can’t and don’t protect students. The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Gun-free zones only announce to bad guys where they can find students helpless and lying open to attack without proper defense. Despite debate rages on about gun free zones, I believe every school ought to have an armed trained professional security guard at the post, just like in Israel (Please also read my column: “A guaranteed remedy to reduce gun violence.”)
Because there has been some concern if the armed security guard at the Colorado school accidentally engaged in friendly fire, Robert Burk, the attorney for the security guard, explained that his client is a highly trained Marine Corps veteran who worked for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for four years.
Burk said, “When he heard what was happening over the radio, he ran to the site of the incident and he took every action he could to protect the children.”
He concluded, “I know that my client is a hero and I know that he did everything in his power to protect the kids, and the staff and the faculty that he knows and works with every day.”
I also have to give a shout out to Portland’s Parkrose High School football and track coach, Keanon Lowe, a former college football star at the University of Oregon and former analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles, who also wrestled and tackled an armed student wearing a black trench coat and carrying a shotgun on Friday before anyone was injured. Well done, Coach Lowe! Where would we be without heroes like this in every sector of our society?
Unfortunately, the news didn’t end well for the Castillo family in Colorado. The gravest tragedy in this recent Colorado school shooting is that senior student Kendrick Castillo was killed while protecting students and assisting Jones and Bialy to take down one of the shooters. Castillo apparently and immediately charged him first, pinning the shooter against the wall before being fatally wounded.
“There was no questioning. There was no hesitation. There was no looking around,” Bialy said of fellow classmate Castillo. (And so it is said of the boldness and grit of heroes, isn’t it?)
Castillo’s parents also gave quite a similar testimony of bravery and sacrifice about their son to WHSV-3. His father said he and his wife were not surprised by their son’s heroic acts. With tears in their eyes, they explained that their only son did what he had to do that day and they will forever be proud of him for doing it – for sacrificing his life for others.
Castillo was laid to rest this past Wednesday as 2000 people gathered in a church to pay tribute and celebrate his life and heroism.
Thanks to the courageous and heroic quick actions of Castillo, Jones, Bialy, Lowe and the school security guard, countless souls were saved. Only God truly knows how many students’ lives were spared, but we know they were. If they saved only one life, it is worth a medal of honor and all Americans’ deepest gratitude.
Student Nui Giasolli, who was with the courageous students in their literature class when the shooter pulled out his gun and started firing, affirmed their heroic actions and gratefulness when she said, “They were very heroic. I can’t thank them enough.”
In a week that will culminate with us commemorating those who have sacrificed everything on Memorial Day, it is fitting to pay tribute in particular to Kenrick Castillo, who did the same for his fellow students.
His actions return me to the words of Jesus, who said, “Greater love has no one than this: that one would lay down his life for his friends.”