Miami, Jul 19 Several survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland high school took the stand this Tuesday in a court in Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA), on the second day of the sentencing phase in the Nikolas Cruz trial, and recalled before the jury members the scenes of chaos and blood they experienced.
One of the survivors was Christopher McKenna, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who on the day of the massacre, February 14, 2018, came across the perpetrator on a utility staircase where Cruz was assembling the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with which he would later kill 14 students and three adults.
“Get out of here. Things are about to get bad,” Cruz told him, McKenna recalled today, after which the young man fled to the parking lot and alerted Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach at the school who took the student away from the institute.
Soon after, Feis, who returned to the building where Cruz was gunning down anyone who crossed his path in the hallways or shot through the windows of the classroom doors, would be killed by the shooter’s gunfire.
William Olson and Alexander Dworet were other survivors who testified in court on Tuesday. Both recalled with pain the noise of the shots, the confusion and the injuries they suffered as a result of the bullets.
“I realize that I have blood everywhere,” said Olson, who was injured in his arm and leg, and who, after hearing the shots, ran to hide behind the teacher’s desk along with other students.
Dworet, whose 17-year-old brother Nicholas was one of the fatalities, was also injured. He at first thought the noises were coming from the school band; but suddenly he felt a “warm feeling” in the back of his head.
“My hand was all bloody,” he recalled in the courtroom, which was presided over by Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer.
At today’s hearing, the twelve jurors viewed footage of the shooting recorded by 13 security cameras inside the three-story building where the mass shooting occurred, footage that was edited so the jury could follow the sequence of events. .
The video, without audio, was not projected on the room’s monitors to the rest of the public present or to the reporters or relatives. He was only seen by the members of the jury on specific monitors, while Cruz, the confessed author of the massacre and now 23 years old, kept his eyes lowered at all times.
The sentencing phase began this Monday after a long and complicated selection process for the 12 members of the jury that began in April and during which more than 1,800 candidates were interviewed.
The jury must observe evidence, hear arguments and testimonies that allow it to reach a verdict, after Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to the 34 charges against him: 17 for murder and 17 for attempted murder of which they survived the gunshot wounds.
The state prosecutor’s office in Broward County, north of Miami, has indicated since the massacre that Cruz is seeking capital punishment and has clarified that it has not negotiated the matter with the defendant’s defense, made up of public attorneys.
For capital punishment, the 12 votes of the jury are needed. Otherwise, Cruz will receive a life sentence. After the suggestion of the jury at the conclusion of the sentencing phase, it will be Judge Scherer who has the final word. EFE