Fort Lauderdale, Florida (AP) — A shooter who killed 14 students and three employees at a high school in Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty to the murder, his lawyer said Friday. Years after the attack that caused a national move for gun control.
Plea will set a punishment stage in which 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz fights the death penalty and wants life imprisonment without parole.
Cruz’s lawyer told Patrol Judge Elizabeth Scheller that she was guilty of 17 single murders on Wednesday in a February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The petition has no conditions and the prosecutor will seek the death penalty. It will be decided by the jury, but the trial is not scheduled.
Cruz also pleads guilty to 17 attempted murders and attacks on prison guards nine months after the shooting. He was not attending the hearing.
The trial was postponed due to a pandemic and debate between the prosecution and the defense about what evidence and testimony could be presented to the jury. The families of some victims complained about the delay, but the chairman of the group they formed reassured that the case now appears to be nearing resolution.
“I hope the system gives him justice,” said Tony Montart of Stand with Parkland. His 14-year-old daughter, Gina, died in a shooting.
The decision by Cruz and his lawyer to plead guilty happened unexpectedly. Preparations were being made to begin the selection of judges within the next few months. He was to be tried next week for an attack on a prison guard in Broward County.
Cruz and his lawyer had long offered to plead guilty in exchange for life imprisonment, but prosecutors repeatedly refused the deal, saying the case was worthy of the death penalty.
The Cruz rampage crushed the safety veneer of Parkland, an upper middle-class community on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale, with little crime. Its educational crown jewel is Stoneman Douglas, a campus of 3,200 students, one of the state’s top-ranked public schools.
Cruz has long been a troubled resident. He had been treated for emotional problems before school and was known to his neighbors for animal cruelty. Sheriff’s agent Broward was frequently called to a high-class neighborhood home he shared with his widow’s mother and brother for turmoil, but nothing was reported that could lead to his arrest. They said they weren’t. The state commission investigating the shooting agreed.
Cruz alternated between traditional schools and schools for troubled students. During his junior high school year, he averaged three disciplinary cases a month.
He attended Stoneman Douglas from the 10th grade, but his worries remained — at some point he was forbidden to carry a backpack to make sure he didn’t have a weapon. Still, he was allowed to join the school’s rifle team.
He was banished after a number of anomalous behaviors and at least one battle, about a year before the attack. He started posting his photos online with his gun and made a video threatening to use violence, including at school. It was around this time that he bought the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle for shooting.
When Cruz’s mother died of pneumonia in November 2017, four months before the shooting, he began staying with a friend and had 10 guns.
Someone was worried about his emotional condition and called the FBI a month before the shooting to warn the agent that he might kill people. No information was transferred to the agency’s South Florida office, and Cruz was neither investigated nor contacted.
Another acquaintance called the Broward Sheriff’s Office with a similar warning, but the adjutant contacted the Sheriff’s Office when he learned that Cruz lived with a family friend in neighboring Palm Beach County. I told the caller to do it.
A few weeks before the shoot, Cruz began making a video proclaiming that it would be “the next school shooting of 2018.” Shortly before the slaughter, he made something that said, “Today is that day. Today is all about. My slaughter day is about to begin.”
The shoot took place on Valentine’s Day, minutes before the end of school day. Students exchanged gifts such as balloons and flowers, and many wore red clothes.
Cruz, then 19 years old, arrived at the campus in Uber that afternoon, assembled a rifle in the bathroom, and then fired at students and staff. The smoke from the rifle sounded the fire alarm.
Outside the building, Sheriff’s deputy Scott Peterson, a longtime school resource officer, heard the shot but did not enter the building. A video show where he pulled a gun and hid behind pillars and walls. He told investigators he didn’t know where the shot came from, but they said his radio showed that he did.
Peterson was charged with neglect of a felony child who allegedly failed to protect his students and perjury allegedly lying to an investigator. He pleaded not guilty and declared his innocence in an interview. He resigned shortly after the shooting and before being fired.
Cruz eventually dropped the rifle and fled, mixed with the victims, when police arrived and attacked the building. He was caught walking in a residential area about an hour later. Later that night he confessed to the detective.
A state survey found a number of security revocations not only in Stoneman Douglas, but in schools throughout the state. The shooting enacted state legislation requiring all Florida public schools to have armed guards on campus during class hours.
The Associated Press correspondent Curt Anderson of St. Petersburg, Florida contributed to the story.
Lawyer: Cruz Convicts of Parkland School Massacre | National News
Source link Lawyer: Cruz Convicts of Parkland School Massacre | National News