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Dakota Ridge High School student shot by ‘best friend’

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- The 14-year-old victim of a Friday night shooting near Littleton died Monday at Swedish Medical Center, according to a Jefferson County Sheriff’s spokesperson. Deputies said a 15-year-old friend of the boy shot him, in what has been described as a tragic accident.

Loved ones have identified the victim as Nathaniel Griego, who was a Freshman at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton.

Candles and posters with messages of love and support awaited the family of Nathaniel Griego on Monday outside their home near West Bowles Avenue and South Platte Canyon Road. Nathaniel was taken off life support on Monday, according to authorities. A Jefferson County Public Schools spokesperson said his organs will be donated.

“I loved that kid,” said friend Sidnie Thornton. “He just meant the world to me. [I’m] just shocked and just sad because he didn’t deserve it.”

Friends said Nathaniel was known for his big smile and big dreams. They called him a compassionate and caring person.

“When you were sad about something, he’d be right there for you,” said friend Lexi May. “He’d be like your shoulder to cry on.”

The 15-year-old suspect faces several charges including Reckless Manslaughter and Tampering with Evidence, but investigators believe the teen did not intentionally shoot Nathaniel. Classmates described the two as best friends.

“[The suspect’s] life is ruined right now because of this incident that he didn’t even mean to do,” said Dakota Ridge student Kaylee Obney.

The suspect is a Sophomore Dakota Ridge, according to classmates. Investigators believe Nathaniel was shot with a gun that belongs to one of the boys’ family members.

Grief counselors will be available for students and staff, according to Jefferson County Public Schools.

The principal of Dakota Ridge High School, Jim Jelinek, sent the following letter to parents on the day after Christmas:

Dear Dakota Ridge Families,

It is with a heavy heart I share tragic news with you today; a student of ours, freshman Nathaniel Griego, is no longer with us. He was fatally injured during an incident on December 23. Since the case is under criminal investigation by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, we cannot share any other information about the incident.

Our thoughts are with Nathaniel’s family during this very painful time. We do not yet have any information about a memorial service; however we will pass it along at the direction of the family.

Teens often have questions about death and loss, so you may consider discussing any worries they may have. We will have mental health staff at the school available for any student who may need emotional support from 1-3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 5 in the counseling center and again on Monday, January 9 when students return to school. If your student is struggling with grief and needs extra support immediately, please contact either the Jefferson Center for Mental Health 303-425-0300, or the Colorado Crisis Service hotline 1-844-493-8255. The holidays can be a difficult time for many, so please access these resources as needed.

You can also find resources which may be helpful to support your child during this difficult time on the Jefferson County Mental Health website, http://www.jcmh.org/resources/.

Again, our hearts go out to the Nathaniel’s family and friends.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said the family is asking for privacy during this difficult time.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Griego's family.