Body camera footage released Friday by the Broward State Attorney’s Office shows the minutes after police captured Nikolas Cruz, the former student who carried out the deadliest school shooting in Florida, killing 17 students and staff members and wounding 17 others with a high-powered rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The two-minute video opens with a shot of Cruz lying on the ground, with a Coral Springs police officer kneeling beside him. Another police officer, who’s wearing the bodycam, squats in front of Cruz. The police officer sounds casual as he twists a piece of string between his thumbs.
The police officer wearing the bodycam asks Cruz, “What’s going on? What’s going on today, bro?”
Cruz, who is handcuffed and lying on his left side, responds right away. “Demons, man,” he says.
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“Demons?” asks the police officer.
“Voices,” Cruz says, “voices.”
“Voices and demons,” the police officer says. The whir of helicopters overhead grows louder.
“Heard some voices,” Cruz says.
The police officer wearing the bodycam stands up, and the camera points away from Cruz and toward a Coral Springs squad car parked by the swale.
Cruz’s voice pitches higher. “What the f---,” he says. “Where the f--- am I? Holy s---. What happened?”
A police officer tells Cruz to “shut up.”
Another says, “Just be quiet, man.”
Cruz is still talking. “What the f--- you doing, dude,” he says. “What the f---.” Cruz, no longer in the camera’s view, is panting and it sounds like he’s hyperventilating.
The police officer wearing the bodycam stands up and walks to his squad car parked less than a block down the swale. He reaches into the squad car and grabs his cellphone from the dashboard.
When the officer returns to where Cruz is, the sound of Cruz sobbing can be heard in the background. He says, “What the f---.”
As the video comes to a close, Cruz can be heard again saying, “What the f--- are you doing” as the officer wearing the bodycam places his hand over the lens and the video ends.
Cruz is awaiting trial on 17 counts of first-degree murder in the attack on Valentine’s Day 2018. He faces the death penalty over the mass shooting, which sparked a wave of student activism and even led to the passage of a gun-control law in Florida.
His comments on the afternoon of Feb. 14 during his capture echo statements Cruz made to police during a videotaped interrogation, in which he claims “a voice” in his head ordered him to commit violence.
The newly released video also supports the first official account of Cruz’s behavior soon after the massacre, when he initially eluded a swarm of police who had converged on the high school campus.
Minutes after being arrested, Cruz reportedly had trouble standing up, began to heave and “vomited clear fluid” as a witness prepared to identify him as the shooter, according to a police report written by the officer who detained him.
But other videos that Cruz made contradict his statements to police about voices and demons telling him to carry out the shooting.
Some time before shooting, Cruz recorded three cellphone videos discussing his plan to murder students and staff.
“With the power of my AR-15 you will all know who I am,” Cruz said in one video.
Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas student who seems to have meticulously planned his attack, expressed anger at his old classmates, saying they thought he was an “idiot and a dumb ass” when in fact it was they who had been “brainwashed by these f***ing political government programs.”
And he declared his love for a girl he identified only by her first name, saying he hoped to see her “in the afterlife.”
The videos, all shorter than 90 seconds, will almost certainly bolster prosecutors’ efforts to convict Cruz, 19, of first-degree murder, a capital offense: Under Florida law, such charges must be premeditated.
In addition to the bodycam footage released Friday, Broward prosecutors also made public a 443-page transcript of recorded interviews with BSO officials, including Chris McCoy, a Broward Sheriff’s Office captain who was second in command of BSO’s SWAT team; and BSO Capt. Jan Jordan, the Parkland district commander who resigned after her handling of the shooting was criticized.
The interviews were run by Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agents and, in some cases, Bob Gualtieri, the Pinellas sheriff and head of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
McCoy, who has since been promoted to major, said he arrived to a hectic scene beset by communication breakdowns, splintered leadership, and a rush of law enforcement responding to the shooting.
By the time McCoy entered the school, Cruz was gone. With the radio communication getting “progressively worse,” McCoy said BSO deputies turned to their cellphones and “runners” to relay messages to the different teams.
“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s the game of telephone when you’re a kid. You don’t know what’s going to come out on the other end.”
McCoy also encountered BSO school resource officer Scot Peterson, who drew a map of the Stoneman Douglas campus for McCoy on a whiteboard inside one of the school’s buildings.
Peterson appeared “distraught” and near tears, McCoy told the investigators. “I could see that he was definitely not well emotionally,” he said. “I said, ‘Get Scot out of here. Get him someplace safe. I didn’t know anything about this prior stuff [regarding Peterson’s inaction during the initial moments of the shooting]. I’m like, ‘Get him. Get him some help.’ ”
Amid the chaos of law enforcement converging on the campus, Jordan, the BSO captain, told investigators that the command center was crowded not only with various police officials but also “quite a few politicians showing up.”
It has never been revealed who those politicians were or why they decided to go to the scene of Florida’s worst school shooting even before the gunman had been apprehended.