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Students walk out of vigil for shooting victims after speakers talk gun control

The Hill logo The Hill 5/9/2019 Morgan Gstalter
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Students walk out of vigil for shooting victims after speakers talk gun control © 9 News Students walk out of vigil for shooting victims after speakers talk gun control

Students and parents walked out of a planned vigil for the victims of a shooting at a Colorado high school after they say the memorial became political, 9 News reported.

The event was described as an "interfaith memorial vigil" to honor victims of the Tuesday shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, which left one student dead and eight others injured.

Students that belong to Team ENOUGH organized the vigil, held at nearby Highlands Ranch High School. The initiative is a youth program connected to the Brady Campaign, the nation's oldest gun violence prevention advocacy group.

Students from STEM reportedly became frustrated when two Democratic politicians from Colorado, Rep. Jason Crow and Sen. Michael Bennet, who is running for president, began to speak about gun control and policy.

A large group of students and parents walked out of the vigil in protest. Many were reportedly angry that the students themselves were not able to speak to honor their slain classmate, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo.

Police said Castillo died trying to stop one of the armed suspects from firing, allowing his classmates time to escape.

"This was not a vigil," one student said, according to 9 News. "This was purely a political stunt. This is not what we wanted for Kendrick."

Another student reportedly said they didn't want their fallen classmate to become a "prop."

"Mental health! Mental health!" the students began spontaneously chanting at one point.

The students from STEM eventually returned inside the gymnasium to continue with the vigil when they were given a chance to speak, the local outlet reported.

"We are mourning the loss of our best friend, our brother, Kendrick Castillo," one student said. "He's somebody that cared for everybody, somebody who was always there, that could fix any problem. Whether that was with his hammer or with his words, he was there. He was somebody we all loved and somebody that was so kind that he was willing to sacrifice his own life for ours. And we are forever grateful."

The Brady Campaign issued an apology on Wednesday night, according to the outlet.

"The event at Highlands Ranch High School was planned to be responsive to the broader community, who have been deeply impacted by this event, and show solidarity with the STEM School students, teachers, and parents. We are here to lift up the voices of victims and survivors," the organization said in a statement.

The Hill has reached out to Crow and Bennet for comment.

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