Crime

Parkland high school shooter Cruz indicted on 34 counts of murder and attempted murder

Parkland school mass shooter makes first court appearance

Nikolas Cruz appears in open court for the first time on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, during a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Dougl
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Nikolas Cruz appears in open court for the first time on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, during a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Dougl

Nikolas Cruz, a troubled loner who returned to the high school he was removed from and shot and killed 17 students and school staffers with an AR-15, was indicted by a Broward County Grand Jury on Tuesday.

Cruz, 19, who police say admitted to the Valentine’s Day rampage at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, now faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and an addtional 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The Feb. 14 shooting that left a picturesque suburban community once proclaimed the safest place to live in Florida in tatters, is the worst mass shooting at a high school in Florida history.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow Pollack, 18, was killed during the shooting, said he’d prefer to see Cruz toil in prison for the rest of his life, then be sentenced to death.

“I don’t want the death penalty,” Pollack told the Miami Herald Tuesday. “I want the guy to rot in prison. Death by injection is too easy.”

The announcement of Cruz’s indictment came in a brief, three-paragraph statement from the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. State Attorney Michael Satz has not publicly stated if he plans to seek the death penalty. Historically, Satz’s office has sought a grand jury finding before deciding on death penalty cases. Satz said he plans on meeting with family members of the victims before making a final decision.

In an unusual move, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said his client is willing to accept a guilty plea if the death penalty were removed as an option.

Cruz was able to pull off the mass murder in large part because of massive failures by state and federal law enforcement. Both the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had numerous opportunities to interrupt Cruz’s plans, but failed to act on calls indicating the teen planned to shoot up a school and was dangerous.

Cruz changed the lives of the residents of the bucolic west Broward community in about a six minute window.

At just past 2 p.m. on Feb. 14, when Cruz arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in a gold Uber. The soft case and backpack he was carrying hid an AR-15 assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He made his way past security onto the property to the 1200 Building, an enclosed structure where mostly freshman take classes.

He opened fire on the first floor, catching students and staff who had been displaced from their classroom by a fire alarm — the second of the school day. He shot more students on the second floor, then made his way to the third floor where an attempt to blow out a window and create a perch to shoot fleeing students was stopped because of hurricane-proof glass.

While the shooting was going on and hundreds of students were locked in classrooms hiding, many shared their experience with the world, posting real-time images of the chaos and texting to loved ones.

After about six minutes the shooting stopped. Cruz dropped his weapon and made his from campus by blending in with hundreds of students who were fleeing through a field toward a Walmart. Police say before his capture, Cruz stopped at a Subway and had a drink, then sat down briefly at a McDonald’s.

About an hour after the shooting, Cruz was captured by a Coconut Creek police office as the teen walked along a residential street in a leafy suburban community about a mile from the school. He gave up without a fight.

It was later learned that the school’s resource officer

The suspect was identified from school security videos and a Coral Springs officer later arrested Cruz as he walked along the side of a road.

Nikolas Cruz, accused of the worst mass high school shooting in Florida history, was indicted on multiple first-degree murder and attempted murder charges by a Broward County Grand Jury on Tuesday.

Cruz, 19, who police say admitted to the Valentine’s Day shooting rampage at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, now faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and an additional 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz has not said publicly if he plans to seek the death penalty. His office has historically sought grand jury findings before deciding on death penalty cases. Satz has said he plans to meet with family members of the victims before making a final decision.

In an unusual move, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said his client would accept a guilty plea if the death penalty were removed as an option.

Cruz, a former student at Stoneman Douglas High, took an Uber there on Feb. 14 while hiding an AR-15 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a soft case and a backpack he was carrying. He walked past security to the 1200 Building on school grounds and opened fire while walking between the first and third floors of the building.

The teen stopped shooting after 34 people were shot, dropped his weapon and exited the property while blending in with hundreds of other students who were fleeing the chaos through a field. Police said before Cruz was captured he stopped at a Subway for a drink, then sat down at a McDonald’s restaurant.

Cruz was captured about an hour after the shooting by a Coconut Creek police officer. The teen was walking down a quiet road in a subdivision about a mile from the school. Cruz gave himself up without a fight and has been held at the Broward County Jail since the shooting.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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