Two weeks ago, John Castillo got on stage at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch and told the world about his son, Kendrick Castillo — his bravery in the face of a gunman, his smile, his love of robotics.
Thursday night in the same church, John and Maria Castillo accepted the medal of valor for their son from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, a posthumous honor bestowed upon the STEM School Highlands Ranch senior, who got up from his seat in English class on May 7 to help disarm a shooter and died in the process.
As part of the sheriff office’s annual award ceremony, Sheriff Tony Spurlock also honored three other students — Brenden Bialy, Joshua Jones and Jackson Gregory — along with teacher Lauren Harper and IT director Mike Pritchard with meritorious conduct awards.
“I can’t help but realize that when you strip down the people in this room — you take the uniform off, the badge, and put them in their casual clothes — that there’s not a little bit of Kendrick in all of us,” John Castillo told the room full of law enforcement officers.
After dozens of Douglas County deputies accepted awards for bravery in the line of duty, Spurlock lauded the heroism of the high school students who acted in similar fashion — only they didn’t sign up for the job.
“These three immediately saw danger, saw something bad and wrong and … within a split second acted immediately,” Spurlock said. “Their actions made a difference.”
Bialy and Jones previously recounted their actions in news conferences after the shooting, detailing the rapid-fire decision to help Castillo stop the gunman. As Castillo threw the gunman against the wall, Bialy wrestled the gun away, while Jones pinned the armed student to the ground. Castillo died during the attack, while Jones suffered two gunshot wounds to the leg. Bialy escaped unscathed.
On Thursday night, Jones walked up to the stage without the crutches and brace he was using two weeks prior. He’s healing quickly, he said after the ceremony, and fulfilled his hope to walk at graduation without assistance.
“I don’t view myself as a hero, but I’m glad Kendrick was recognized,” Jones said.
Bialy said that although it was cool to get the award, he “takes more away from being in the presence of my peers and teachers.”
“We’ll have this camaraderie with the five of us — six, including Kendrick — for the rest of our lives,” he said.
John Castillo said his son always revered law enforcement, recalling that Kendrick used to remind him to move over lanes on the road when he saw flashing lights to preserve the safety of law enforcement officials.
“When you’re caring for your kids, and you’re doing the right thing and you’re reaching out to somebody that you don’t even know,” Castillo told the officers, “you’re really carrying on his legacy.”