Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in the Parkland schools is on death row
On Monday, the prosecution in the 2018 mass shooting at a Florida high school, in which 17 people were murdered and 17 others were injured, urged the jury to impose the death penalty on the shooter.
About 30 miles (48 km) north of Fort Lauderdale, in the city of Parkland, lies the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where on February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, then 23 years old, killed 14 students and three faculty members before turning the gun on himself.
On the first day of the penalty phase of the trial, prosecutor Michael Satz told the Broward County jury that Cruz committed “goal-directed planned, systematic murder — mass murder — of 14 students, an athletic director, a teacher and a coach.” of 15 people, including 14 students, an athletic director, a teacher, and a coach.
Students who were in class that day (and learning about Shakespeare and the Holocaust) testified for Satz, and he played cellphone footage in which frightened students screamed for help or murmured in low voices as they hid.
Nearly three-quarters of a dozen victims’ loved ones were in court to watch the trial, and many of them wept openly as they listened to the news. Cruz sat with his head in his hands, occasionally resting it on the defence table, while films played, wearing a grey and black sweatshirt and a black mask.
Cruz, who was 19 and dismissed from school at the time of the massacre, faces the death penalty unless a unanimous jury of 12 finds him not guilty. It may be a few months before they make a decision.
Cruz in his guilty plea claimed he was “very sorry” and requested to be given a chance to help others. Satz argued that Cruz’s mental health history and other mitigating considerations were outweighed by the case’s aggravating features, such as his premeditation.
Dylan Kraemer, a student at the time of the shooting, was sitting in on a lesson about the Holocaust when he heard a commotion outside.
“Eventually the shooter started shooting through the window, bullets were flying through,” he said. “We ducked down, waited 20 or 30 seconds, it stopped. I looked over and two people were dead, multiple people were shot.”
Brittany Sinitch, a teacher, recalled dialling the emergency number 911 from her classroom. Her class was working on Valentine’s Day cards depicting figures from “Romeo and Juliet” when the incident happened on the afternoon of February 14, 2018.
“Almost instantly, I called 911. They couldn’t hear me over the sound of the gunshots; it was so loud,” she explained.
Later in the proceedings, attorneys representing Cruz were scheduled to present opening statements.
Recent mass shootings in the United States, including one at an Independence Day parade outside of Chicago that killed seven people and another in May at a school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers, have brought the issue of gun violence in the United States back into the public eye.
Joe Biden, the Vice President, signed the first major federal gun reform in three decades in June, and he has hailed it as a rare example of bipartisan cooperation.