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Nikolas Cruz to plead guilty for Parkland school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The former student who was accused of shooting and killing 17 people at his high school in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 plans to plead guilty to 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, one of his lawyers said on Friday.

The rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, killed 14 students and three faculty members, one of the deadliest shootings in American history. Seventeen other people were wounded.

The former student, Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time and had a history of mental health and behavior problems, used a semiautomatic rifle that he had legally bought to carry out the assault, according to the police.

“It is our intent to enter a change of plea as to both cases to all charges,” David Wheeler, one of Mr. Cruz’s lawyers, said in court on Friday.

Mr. Cruz, now 23, appeared in court shortly after and pleaded guilty to battery and other charges in a separate case related to a fight with a sheriff’s deputy in jail.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she would schedule a hearing for Wednesday at 9 a.m. for Mr. Cruz to change his plea in the Parkland shooting case.

The next step would be a penalty phase before a jury in which Mr. Cruz’s lawyers would attempt to avoid a death sentence and argue instead for life in prison. Prosecutors have vowed to pursue the death penalty and said there have been no plea negotiations in the case.

Mr. Cruz appeared in court on Friday wearing a mask, large glasses and a dark sweater over a white collared shirt. He told the judge that he was feeling nervous but that he was thinking clearly and understood the proceedings. When Judge Scherer asked Mr. Cruz if he had any mental issues, he said that he had been told in the past that he suffered from anxiety and depression, but that he felt ready to proceed with Friday’s hearing.

“I don’t believe I have any issues,” he said. He said he had not taken any medication in the past year. Editors’ Picks Did You See That Video of the Subway Rat Hauling the Crab? 16 Slow Cooker Recipes That You Can Prep and Forget The Cruel Paradox of Linda Evangelista’s Fate Continue reading the main story

The announcement of planned guilty pleas follows years of witness interviews and other preparations for an emotionally grueling trial that had been expected to last months.

Before the shooting, Mr. Cruz recorded three videos on his cellphone that indicated that he, like many youthful perpetrators of mass shootings, wanted his name to be remembered.

“When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am,” he said on one video. “You’re all going to die.”

The shooting led thousands of students who had grown up in an era of school shooting drills and lockdowns to walk out of their classrooms and march for tougher gun control laws and an end to gun violence. Some of the marches were led by teenagers who had survived the Parkland shooting and who quickly emerged as leaders of a younger generation of activists.

Members of March for Our Lives, an organization founded by some survivors of the shooting, said they were “appalled and disgusted” that lawmakers had not done more to reduce gun violence in the wake of the tragedy.

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by Anonymousreply 11October 21, 2021 8:15 AM

“A single guilty plea does not bring closure as long as it is still possible for another person anywhere in this country to be murdered by a gun at school, in a place of worship, or in their very own home,” the group said in a statement.

Sitting in the back of the courtroom on Friday were Mitchell and Annika Dworet, the parents of Nicholas Dworet, 17, who was killed in the shooting, and Alex Dworet, whose head was grazed by a bullet.

“We’re doing the best we can,” Mitchell Dworet said after the hearing. “It’s been a different kind of life for us now. We’re trying to heal as best we can.”

Both said they wanted Mr. Cruz to be executed.

“I’d like to see this young man suffer,” Mr. Dworet said. “He knew what he was doing. He took my son’s life and he tried to murder my other son. I’d like to see him on death row.”

Less than a month after the shooting, Michael J. Satz, who was then the Broward County state attorney, said he would seek the death penalty. He cited seven aggravating factors that he said could make Mr. Cruz eligible for execution under Florida law, including that Mr. Cruz “knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons” and that the crime was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”

Following the guilty plea, a jury will determine whether the prosecution has proved those points and, if so, weigh them against mitigating factors offered by the defense, which could include details of Mr. Cruz’s mental health history and his level of remorse. The defense will also have to decide whether Mr. Cruz should testify in front of the jury.

Sarah Anne Mourer, a lawyer in Miami Shores who has worked on a variety of death penalty cases, said pleading guilty before a trial allowed Mr. Cruz’s lawyers to make a consistent argument to jurors, rather than trying to prove his innocence at trial and making a much different case during the penalty phase. Ms. Mourer said the proceeding would probably include testimony from behavioral experts, the families of the victims and, perhaps, relatives of Mr. Cruz’s or other people who knew him.

“What a jury cares about, and what will move them toward feeling that this guy is a human being and they don’t want to kill him,” Ms. Mourer said, is a demonstration of a “kernel of humanity” that jurors could weigh against the magnitude of his crimes.

The judge will then make a final decision after the jury makes its recommendation.

The separate case involving Mr. Cruz’s fight with the sheriff’s deputy dates back to November 2018, when Mr. Cruz assaulted the officer and grabbed his electroshock weapon while being held in a Fort Lauderdale jail.

After Sgt. Raymond Beltran told Mr. Cruz to “not drag his sandals on the ground,” according to an affidavit, Mr. Cruz made an obscene gesture and “rushed” him and “struck him in the face.” The two men ended up on the ground, the affidavit said. Video shows that Mr. Cruz was on top of Sergeant Beltran at one point, punching him in the head several times, according to the affidavit.

Sergeant Beltran sat in the courtroom on Friday as Mr. Cruz pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to prosecutors’ account of how the incident transpired.

Mr. Cruz had been scheduled to face trial on those charges next week, but the jury selection in that case was rocky, a sign of how difficult it would be to try Mr. Cruz in a region still traumatized by the Parkland attack.

Several prospective jurors cried after seeing Mr. Cruz for the first time earlier this month, and Mr. Cruz himself began to sob in front of the jurors. His lawyers tried to give him colored pencils in what they said was an effort to calm him down, but the judge ordered that they be taken away after prosecutors accused his lawyers of using the pencils as props to make him appear mentally unstable.

by Anonymousreply 1October 16, 2021 2:01 PM

Long before the shooting at the school, Mr. Cruz’s behavior had provoked concern from school officials. In 2016, Mr. Cruz told another student that he had a gun at home and was thinking of using it, prompting two guidance counselors and a sheriff’s deputy at the high school to conclude that he should be forcibly committed for psychiatric evaluation, according to mental health records that were obtained by The New York Times.

But Mr. Cruz appears never to have been institutionalized despite making threats to himself and others, cutting his arms with a pencil sharpener and claiming he had drunk gasoline in a possible attempt to kill himself, all in a five-day period in September 2016.

The revelation that school officials considered trying to commit Mr. Cruz in 2016 appeared to be another in a string of missed opportunities to deal with the troubled young man.

Local sheriff’s deputies were repeatedly called to Mr. Cruz’s residences but never found reason enough to arrest him. The F.B.I. did not investigate tips about Mr. Cruz’s apparent interest in school shootings, even after a woman called to say he had weapons and was “going to explode.”

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office later came under intense criticism after video showed one of its deputies, Scot Peterson, standing outside of the school for nearly an hour as the rampage continued. He is awaiting trial on charges of felony neglect of a child. Three other deputies were fired over their response to the shooting, and Gov. Ron DeSantis made good on a campaign promise by replacing the sheriff after taking office in 2019.

by Anonymousreply 2October 16, 2021 2:01 PM

I read about Cruz this summer. It's astonishing how many red flags were ignored in his case.

Not sure if this is pay walled but it provides a good timeline:

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by Anonymousreply 3October 16, 2021 2:04 PM

Highlights from r3:

Aug. 28, 2012: Cruz receives a suspension for fighting at Westglades Middle School

During the 2013 school year, 26 disciplinary incidents are added to Cruz’s record at Westglades Middle School -- averaging nearly three per month.

Jan. 15, 2013: Lynda Cruz tells Broward County sheriff her son has anger issues

A Broward County sheriff responded to the Cruz’s Parkland home after Lynda Cruz reports that she was thrown against the wall after taking away 14-year-old Nikolas’s Xbox. Mental health clinicians advised Nikolas did not need to be held under the Baker Act.

Feb. 6, 2014: Cruz transfers to Cross Creek School, for students with emotional or behavioral problems

Cruz leaves Westglades Middle School in the 8th grade and enrolls in a school that offers psychiatric and other clinical services on campus.

Jan. 13, 2016: Cruz transfers to Stoneman Douglas

Cruz is allowed to leave Cross Creek in the 10th grade and enrolls in the mainstream public high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Feb. 5, 2016: Anonymous report that Cruz stated on Instagram that he plans to shoot up the school

The Broward County sheriff receives a report from an unnamed neighbor whose son said Cruz posted a photo of himself with guns on Instagram, saying he planned to shoot up the school. The sheriff’s office forwarded the information to the Stoneman Douglas school resource officer.

Sept. 28, 2016: Sheriff receives two reports related to Cruz allegedly hurting himself

A school resource officer reports that a peer counselor told him that Cruz ingested gasoline in an effort to commit suicide and was cutting himself. He also allegedly said he wanted to buy a gun and possessed hate-related symbols. A mental health clinician said Cruz didn’t need to be held under the Baker Act. Eight hours later, a sheriff’s deputy responds to Cruz’s home on allegations that Cruz is hurting himself and talking about buying a gun.

Sept. 28, 2016: State welfare agency opens case on Cruz, citing “medical neglect”

Florida Department of Children and Families opens a case on Cruz, calling him “a vulnerable adult due to mental illness.” The report notes that Cruz said he plans to buy a gun, but “it is unknown what he is buying the gun for.”

Nov. 12, 2016: Florida Department of Children and Families closes its case on Cruz

In its report, the Florida Department of Children and Families says Cruz’s “final level of risk is low,” noting that his mental health clinician said Cruz takes medication regularly and keeps his appointments. The report states that Cruz suffers from depression, ADHD and autism. It also reports that he doesn’t have a gun.

Jan. 19, 2017: Cruz reported for an assault Stoneman Douglas

Cruz is reported for an alleged assault and referred for a threat assessment, according to school discipline records.

Feb. 8, 2017: Cruz leaves Stoneman Douglas and enrolls at an alternative learning program

Cruz enrolls in the Off Campus Learning Centers, a program that offers high school diplomas and vocational training to students who have trouble in traditional schools or have dropped out.

Feb. 11, 2017: Cruz buys an AR-15 from a Coral Springs, Fla., gun store

Cruz purchases the AR-15 used in the shooting from Sunrise Tactical Supply. The transaction is later confirmed by the retailer's lawyers. Federal authorities say the gun was purchased legally. Cruz purchased at least 10 weapons before the shooting, all rifles and shotguns, according to a law enforcement official.

September 2017 “nikolas cruz” says he plans to be a school shooter in a YouTube comment

A person with the screenname “nikolas cruz” leaves a comment on Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight’s YouTube channel: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” Bennight alerts the FBI and two agents interview him.

Nov. 1, 2017: Lynda Cruz dies of pneumonia at age 68

After Lynda dies, family friend Rocxanne Deschamps takes in Nikolas and Zachary, who move into her home in Lake Worth, Fla., about 30 miles north of Parkland.

by Anonymousreply 4October 16, 2021 2:10 PM

cont'd:

Nov. 1, 2017: Lynda’s cousin advises sheriff to take away Cruz’s weapons

A cousin of Lynda’s reportedly tells the Broward County Sheriff’s Office that Cruz has rifles and requests that they be taken away in light of Lynda’s death.

November 2017: Rock Deschamps reports Cruz has buried a 9mm gun in the backyard

Rock Deschamps, Rocxanne’s son, tells law enforcement that Cruz was digging in the backyard for 15 minutes and “I’m positive he hid a weapon.”

Nov. 29, 2017: Family friend whom Cruz is staying with calls 911

Rocxanne Deschamps calls authorities to report a fight between Cruz and her son. She said Cruz became violent, punching walls and left to get a gun. She tells law enforcement that she forbade Cruz from bringing guns to her home.

Nov. 30, 2017: Broward County Sheriff’s Office receives tip that Cruz could become a school shooter

A caller from Massachusetts tells the sheriff’s office that Cruz is collecting guns and knives and could kill himself or become a school shooter. A deputy refers the call to the Palm Beach sheriff’s office after the caller notes Cruz has moved to Lake Worth , Fla. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said it was never told of the threat.

Jan. 5, 2018: FBI receives a tip that Cruz might attack a school

The FBI receives a tip from “a person close to Nikolas Cruz” who is worried about Cruz "getting into a school and just shooting the place up." The caller reported concerns about Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” according to an FBI statement. The agency ignores the warning.

Feb. 14, 2018: Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School kills 17 students and faculty

Police say Cruz took an Uber to the school, carrying a black duffle bag, and opened fire in the “freshman building” with an AR-15.

by Anonymousreply 5October 16, 2021 2:14 PM

is he circumcised or uncut?

by Anonymousreply 6October 16, 2021 2:23 PM

Oh, so you want to fuck this piece of shit? Well get in line.

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by Anonymousreply 7October 16, 2021 2:33 PM

That staggering list of (ignored) flags is absolutely appalling. Further proof that we as Americans simply don't care about mental health, protecting students, or firearm legislation.

by Anonymousreply 8October 16, 2021 2:40 PM

[quote] That staggering list of (ignored) flags is absolutely appalling. Further proof that we as Americans simply don't care about mental health, protecting students, or firearm legislation.

It’s a sad - an telling - indictment of the current US state.

What is with this country’s obsession with guns? The rest of the world looks at us as if we are crazy: and as the examples of the actions of Nicholas Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene (and her sick supporters and like-minded colleagues), we are.

by Anonymousreply 9October 16, 2021 2:48 PM

How could he plead guilty if the whole thing was a false flag?

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by Anonymousreply 10October 16, 2021 2:58 PM

It was heartbreaking. No winners. I wish we could have a broader discussion about School Bullies when these happen. Not to start a frenzy but one of the kids Cruz targeted looked like a bully. I wish a reporter would have asked his mother or father if he ever bullied or beat up smaller kids... Just sayin'...If you look at these cases most of them are Bully related.

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by Anonymousreply 11October 21, 2021 8:15 AM
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