The Jeep-loving student, 18, was killed last week after lunging to stop one of the gunmen at the Colorado STEM School shooting

By Laura Barcella
May 15, 2019 05:31 PM
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

Kendrick Castillo, 18, lost his life last week after lunging at one of the gunmen at the STEM School outside of Denver, Colorado, in an attempt to stop the shooting.

Today, his community came together to commemorate Castillo at a “celebration of life” service. In a show of support for the Jeep-loving teen — who had reportedly been saving up to buy a new ride himself — the area was packed with hundreds of 4x4s accompanying his hearse to the church.

The unique procession was organized by a group called the Colorado Jeep Girls, which originally spread the word on Instagram as more and more “Jeepers” vowed to show up in solidarity. “When the Jeep community started posting that Kendrick was a Jeep enthusiast, I saw the need to get something together to honor him, as well as support his family,” Catherine Fanaro, president of the Colorado Jeep Girls, tells PEOPLE via email.

Fanaro says she reached out to various administrators of local Jeep clubs, then connected with Castillo’s family, who approved the Jeep convoy. She hasn’t yet received the final count on how many rigs were on site today, but it appears to be a lot, and Fanaro says “the presence was incredible and touching.”

The Jeep procession for Kendrick Castillo
David Zalubowski/AP/REX/Shutterstock

According to CNN, Castillo’s own Jeep was scheduled to be part of the procession, as well as a Jeep belonging to his best friend, Charles Burroughs Jr., who told KCNC, “The main thing that we really bonded over was the Jeeps.”

Castillo was one of a handful of students who allegedly rushed the shooters when the tragedy occurred at his school on May 7.

Brendan Bialy, who also tried to lunge at one of the shooters, told NBC Nightly News that Kendrick heroically sprung into action that day: “He charged the shooter and was immediately on top of him; complete disregard for his own safety. He was immediately there to respond. He was immediately there on the shooter, and he was ready to end the threat.”

A memorial for Kendrick Castillo
David Zalubowski/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Another classmate, Nui Giasolli, also told several outlets about Castillo’s bravery. “Kendrick lunged at him and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe and to run out … across the room to escape,” Giasolli told the Today Show.

Castillo was the only fatal victim in the incident, while eight other students were hospitalized.

The two suspects in the shooting, who are 18 and 16 years old, have been charged with 48 counts of murder and attempted murder in addition to other crimes, according to NBC News, CNN, CBS and other outlets.

“I’m proud of our community for stepping up to support his family and honor Kendrick; we are proud to call Kendrick our Jeep family,“ Fanaro says.