Nikolas Cruz, the Florida Parkland shooter who killed 17 people and injured 17 more in a massacre in 2018, has pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder.
The shooting is the deadliest high school attack in American history, with more victims than the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
This is what you need to know.
What did he do?
On 14 February, Cruz entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, and opened fire on the students and staff inside with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.
He entered Building 12, which is a three storey structure which contained 30 classrooms, usually occupied by roughly 900 students and 30 teachers.
In total, the shooting lasted around six minutes, with Cruz’s victims all shot in just under four minutes.
Cruz attempted to conceal himself by blending in with the crowd fleeing the school following the massacre. He was eventually arrested about an hour later.
Cruz had been expelled from the high school in 2017, with students and staff later describing him as an “outcast” and a troublemaker. He had also been previously investigated by local police, and the Department of Children and Family Services after posting self harm evidence on the app Snapchat.
The shooting caused some Stoneman Douglas students to launch the March for Our Lives movement, which calls for stronger gun restrictions nationally.
Who were his victims?
The then 19-year-old killed 17 people, and injured a further 17. Of the victims who died, 12 died inside the school, three died just outside the building on school grounds, and two died in hospital.
The 14 students, and three staff members, that were killed were:
- Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
- Martin Duque, 14
- Nicholas Dworet, 17
- Jamie Guttenberg, 14
- Luke Hoyer, 15
- Cara Loughran, 14
- Gina Montalto, 14
- Joaquin Oliver, 17
- Alaina Petty, 14
- Meadow Pollack, 18
- Helena Ramsay, 17
- Alex Schachter, 14
- Carmen Schentrup, 16
- Peter Wang, 14
- Scott Beigel, 35
- Aaron Feis, 37
- Chris Hixon, 49
What is his sentence?
Cruz pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
He additionally pleaded guilty to 17 counts of attempted murder for those he injured during the attack.
Currently, Cruz faces life in prison, or even the possibility of the death penalty.
Following the plea, Cruz addressed the judge and the victims’ families, and said: “I am very sorry for what I did and have to live with it every day. If I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to help others.”
He added that he has “nightmares” about the attack and that he “can’t live with himself”.
The case will head to a penalty trial which will see jurors determining whether Cruz will be given the death penalty, or life without parole.
Jury selection is expected to begin next year, on 4 January 2022, and due to the notoriety of the case, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Schrerer plans to screen thousands of potential jurors.
In order to impose the death sentence, all 12 jurors must be in agreement and in the case that they do come to the same conclusion, the final decision will be up to Judge Scherer.
After pleading guilty, Cruz said that he wished it was up to the survivors of the massacre to decide whether he would live or die.
Lawyers representing Cruz said that he would plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the table, and last week his attorny David Wheeler told the judge that Cruz’s lawyers were asking the court to sentence him to 17 consecutive life sentenced for the shooting.
However, that offer was rejected by prosecutors, with earlier court documents stating that they would seek execution, and prove that his crime “was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel”.
What did the survivors and victims’ families say?
Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed in the shooting, said: “Today we saw a cold and calculating killer confess to the murder of my daughter Gina and 16 other innocent victims at their school.
“His guilty pleas are the first step in the judicial process but there is no change for my family. Our bright, beautiful and beloved daughter Gina is gone while her killer still enjoys the blessings of a life in prison.”
Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jamie, said that Cruz should pay with his life for what he did.
“My daughter should be living the best years of her life. My son heard his sister get shot and his life is forever impacted. My wife and I had two children that killer took this from us,” Mr Guttenberg said.
After the hearing, Anthony Borges, who was shot five times in the attack, told reporters that he accepted Cruz’s apology.
He said: “He made a decision to shoot the school. I am not God to make the decision to kill him or not. That’s not my decision.
“My decision is to be a better person and to change the world for every kid. I don’t want this to happen to anybody again. It hurts. It hurts. It really hurts.
“So, I am just going to keep going.”
The March For Our Lives Twitter account also tweeted: “Today, the Parkland shooter plead guilty to murder. We won’t have closure until our laws prevent these tragedies in the first place.”
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