FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Even after he was shot, Alex Dworet tried not to believe the Parkland tragedy was real.
Dworet was one of 17 injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. His brother, Nicholas Dworet, was one of the 17 killed. Alex described his experience during the second day of the trial to determine whether his brother’s killer is executed.
He said he was in class he heard loud bangs but didn’t think much of it initially.
“Then I just remember feeling sensation on the back of my head, like a hot sensation,” Dworet testified on Tuesday.
“While I was sitting there, I was trying not to think this is real. This is fake. I’m just trying not to process it,” he said. “I’m trying not to freak out.”
He looked in front of him and saw the body of classmate Alex Schachter, the 14-year-old freshman who played two instruments in band and was determined to prove his worth. Schachter was slumped in his seat, blood collecting under him, spasming or twitching, but clearly dying, Dworet said.
“It was starting to get real,” he said.
Another shooting victim from the same class, William Olsen, also testified that he saw Schachter was not moving.
“I realize there’s blood all over me. I can hear the shots still. I hear them get farther away,” he testified. “I ended up on the floor in front of the teacher’s desk. I don’t know how I got there.”
At this point, Olsen realized he too had been shot.
Jurors also heard from a student who was warned by Nikolas Cruz to “get out of here” because “things are going to get bad.”
Christopher McKenna, who was a freshman at the time, testified he passed Cruz in a hallway preparing his rifle. After Cruz gave his warning, McKenna ran to the senior parking lot, where he saw Aaron Feis, a campus monitor who was later killed in the mass shooting.
“I was hearing shots. I was in the golf cart driving to the 1300 building,” he said.
He said he later ran to a friend’s house and called his dad, who worked in law enforcement at the time.
McKenna identified the Cruz in surveillance video that only jurors saw. When prosecutor Mike Satz asked if he saw Cruz in the courtroom, McKenna stood up and pointed at the defendant. Cruz looked back at him. McKenna’s testimony ended.
Jurors watched several surveillance videos on Tuesday, which were recorded without sound.
Defense lawyer David Wheeler argued against the introduction of Tuesday’s videos, saying they have value as evidence but are prejudicial, so horrific that they will overwhelm the jury emotionally.
“The question is whether it’s (necessary) to prove an aggravator,” Wheeler said.
Prosecutor Jeff Marcus argued the videos are needed to prove the “heinous, atrocious and cruel” nature of the killings.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled in favor of the prosecutors.
The videos are not being shown to the public. A handful of media representatives viewed them at the end of the day without cameras or recording equipment for a pool report.
The defense has been largely silent with the jurors in the room, but the lawyers speak up in their absence, mostly arguing to preserve their objections to the proceedings. Any one of those objections can end up as an issue for appeals courts to consider in the future.
During the playback of the graphic surveillance videos, all jurors were focused on the screens. As the video progressed, two woman raised their hands in front of their mouths, fingers opened, one with a slight tremble. Later, four held their hands to their faces, one looking troubled and the others pensive.
A man on the jury alternated his gaze from the screen to Cruz, who was looking down, occasionally glancing to his right and talking with Wheeler.
The trial began on Monday, with jurors watching harrowing cellphone videos taken by students at the high school, where Cruz killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018. He pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder; the penalty trial is for a jury to determine if he gets life in prison without parole or the death penalty.