When Fr. Gregory Bierbaum heard about a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, just two miles up the road, he drove to Rock Bottom, a restaurant where students who had escaped the school were gathering.
“One of my staff’s grandsons is one of them who escaped, so I went over just to be present,” he told CNA.
On Tuesday, May 7, one student was killed and eight others were injured when two shooters reportedly opened fire at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, a suburb south of Denver.
The STEM school falls within the boundaries of Bierbaum’s parish, St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and about a dozen of his parishioners are students at the school. The priest spoke with CNA on Thursday, May 9, which the parish designated as a day full of prayer, counseling, adoration and Mass for those impacted by the shooting.
While Bierbaum’s student parishioners at STEM were not physically injured in the shooting, they were in “close proximity” to the room of the shooting, and have endured some serious psychological trauma, he said.
“We just want to provide a safe haven for people to come and be together and interact with counselors if they need to,” Bierbaum said.
Two suspects in the shooting are now in custody, and have been identified by authorities as Devon Erickson, and juvenile Maya McKinney, who identified as male and went by Alec, according to reports.
While a motive is yet unknown, the Washington Examiner reported that the now-deleted Facebook account of Erickson included a post in which he expressed his “hate” for “Christians who hate gays.” On Instagram, he reportedly posted that he was “covered in ink and addicted to pain.”
Bierbaum said he credited Kendrick Castillo, and the other students who reportedly rushed one of the shooters, for the small number of fatalities and injuries. Castillo, an 18 year-old senior and a Catholic, active as an usher and with the Knights of Columbus, was the lone fatality of the shooting and is being hailed as a hero for his life-saving actions.
Bishops from around the country offered their sympathies and prayers after news of the shooting broke.
Read more at Catholic News Agency.