FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — Jurors in the criminal trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz watched a graphic video Tuesday of how he killed 17 people as he stalked through a three-story classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland four years ago.
The video, compiled from 13 security cameras in the building, was not shown in the gallery where the parents of many of the victims sat. Prosecutors say it shows Cruz shooting many of his victims at point-blank range, returning to some as they lay wounded on the floor to kill them with a second volley of shots.
The 12 jurors and 10 alternates stared intently at their video screens. Many held their hands to their faces as they watched the 15-minute recording, which has no sound.
Some began to squirm. One of the jurors looked at the screen, looked up at Cruz with wide eyes, and then returned to the video.
Cruz looked down as the video played and didn’t appear to be watching it. Sometimes he looked up to exchange whispers with one of his lawyers.
The video was released over the objection of Cruz’s lawyers, who argued that any probative value it had was dwarfed by the emotions it would stir in jurors. They argued that eyewitness accounts of what happened would be sufficient.
District Judge Elizabeth Scherer overruled the objection, saying that a video that accurately depicted Cruz’s crimes did not unfairly prejudice his case. Prosecutors are using the video to prove several aggravating circumstances, including that Cruz acted in a cold, calculating and cruel manner.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 more counts of attempted murder of those he injured. A jury must decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life without parole for the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury.
Later in the second day of the trial, jurors heard testimony from Christopher McKenna, who was a freshman at the time of the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. He had left his English class to go to the bathroom and exchanged greetings with two students. Luke Heuer and Martin Duque as they crossed paths in the first floor hallway. McKenna then entered the stairwell and encountered Cruz assembling his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Cruz, who had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas a year earlier, entered the campus through a gate that opened for the end of the school day after about 20 minutes, carrying the gun in a bag.
“He said get out of here. Things were about to get worse,” McKenna recalled.
McKenna sprinted toward the parking lot as Cruz entered the hallway and began shooting. McKenna alerted Aaron Face, an assistant football coach who also works as a security guard. Face drove McKenna in his golf cart to an adjacent building for safety and then walked to the three-story building from which McKenna escaped.
By then, the sounds of gunfire were already echoing across the campus. Face entered and was immediately fatally shot by Cruz, who had already killed Hoyer, 15, and Duque, 14, and eight others. Cruz then continued through the second floor, where he fired into classrooms but did not hit anyone. When he reached the third floor, he killed six more.
Jurors also heard testimony from English teacher Dara Haas, who killed three students and wounded several in her classroom when Cruz fired through a door window.
“The sound was so loud. The students were screaming,” said Haas, who cried and wiped her eyes with a tissue as she testified. She thought it might be a drill, but then she noticed the body of 14-year-old Alex Schachter, who had been fatally shot at his desk.
“Then I saw it wasn’t a drill,” she said. Two 14-year-old girls also died in the classroom: Alaina Petty and Alyssa Alhadeff.
When police arrived and evacuated her students, Hass said she didn’t want to leave, but officers convinced her.
“I wanted to stay with the students who couldn’t go,” she said, referring to Schachter, Petty and Alhadeff. When prosecutor Mike Satz showed her pictures of their bodies in her classroom, she sobbed.
One student in her class, Alexander Durrett, said he initially thought the loud bangs were the school’s marching band, but then he felt a “hot sensation” on the back of his head where he had been grazed by a bullet and “I knew it was in danger.” He and other students scrambled out of the window, using Hass’s desk as a barrier.
Durrett’s 17-year-old brother, Nick, was across the hall in his Holocaust studies class. Cruz fired into that classroom as well, killing him.
Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.
Jurors see horrifying video of Florida school shooting
Source link Jurors see horrifying video of Florida school shooting