FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Just before the Parkland killer picked up his brand new Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle at a gun store in Sunrise, the seller asked him what he planned to do with it.
“‘I go shooting with my friends on the weekend,” the young man replied. He was four months past his 18th birthday. The sale was legal and raised no suspicions. Nikolas Cruz paid $618.17 for the rifle. It was February 2017.
A year later, he would use that rifle to kill 17 and injure 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
The second week of the trial to determine whether Cruz is executed for the mass shooting continued Tuesday with testimony from Michael Morrison, former owner of Sunrise Tactical Supply, who recalled the sale. The day’s other witnesses were deputy medical examiners who dealt with the aftermath of what Cruz did with that weapon.
Morrison is no longer in the firearms business, working now as a paving crew leader for the city of Tamarac. He described on the witness stand how he and a co-worker both handled Cruz’s sale, asking him to fill out a federal form that includes questions about whether he uses marijuana, has been convicted of a felony, been determined by a court to be mentally incapable or been involved in domestic violence. Cruz answered no to all of the questions.
Morrison said he was careful about who he sold guns to.
“We look for any red flags or signs why the sale should not happen,” he said. “If for any reasons anyone is uncomfortable, the sale did not happen.”
Morrison said his conversation with Cruz, about why he wanted the gun, was brief.
“He said, ‘I go shooting with my friends on the weekend. I just want my own stuff,’” Morrison testified.
Prosecutor Mike Satz showed him the rifle that was used at the high school, which Morrison identified, but said several accessories had been added to it since the sale, including a grip, a sling to carry it, and a bipod, which is a stand which allows the weapon to rest steady without holding it.
Jurors also heard Tuesday from two Palm Beach County medical examiners who worked on the Parkland case in 2018.
Max Schachter sobbed in the courtroom as Dr. Rebecca McDougall provided grim details about the multiple gunshot wounds that killed his son Alex, a band student.
McDougall also described the fatal wounds for student athlete Alyssa Alhadeff and teacher and coach Scott Beigel, whose families were not in court Tuesday.
Dr. Marlon Osbourne described the fatal blow to Helena Ramsay’s head, Gina Montalto’s heart and Jaime Guttenberg’s chest and lung. He described Montalto being shot at close range.
The medical examiners described defensive wounds for Alhadeff and Guttenberg, which were wounds to their hands while trying to shield themselves during the shooting.
Gina and Jaime’s parents cried when they heard both the simple details, like their children’s age, weight and height, and the horrific details of how they were shot.
Earlier Tony Montalto said he felt it was important to hear about his daughter’s fatal injuries.
“Gina can’t be here to represent herself,” he said.
Jurors were presented with another batch of gruesome autopsy photos, some showing small bullet holes, others gaping wounds.
The other expert witness who testified Tuesday was Rebecca Santiago of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab.
Santiago ran a DNA analysis of Cruz’s cheek as well as items found on the scene, including the gun, magazines, mask, vest and backpack left behind.
She said the chances that the DNA found on the item did not match Cruz was less than one in 400 billion. Defense lawyers stood up to acknowledge all the DNA found on the evidence belonged to Cruz, sparing the jury from having the witness walk through each piece of evidence to prove a fact that is not in dispute.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday.