Parkland shooting - live: Jury shown more graphic videos in Nikolas Cruz death penalty sentencing trial

Nikolas Cruz, the man convicted of shooting dead 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February 2018, is facing the penalty phase of the trial for his crimes.

Cruz, a former student at the school, was just 19 when he went on a shooting spree in what proved to be one of the deadliest school massacres in US history. He subsequently surrendered to police and pleaded guilty to 17 charges of first-degree murder and 17 of attempted murder.

Cruz was a member of the school's air rifle team who had been expelled over his disciplinary record. He had arrived at the school with a legally purchased AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and murdered 14 students and three staff members, injuring 17 more. The shooting sparked a nationwide protest movement demanding tighter gun control measures.

While prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Cruz, his attorneys are hoping for a life term.

WARNING - Graphic content: This blog contains testimony, descriptions, and audio content relating to the Parkland shooting.

Key Points

  • Gunman Nikolas Cruz faces sentencing for Parkland massacre

  • 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018

  • 12-member jury to weigh death penalty versus life in prison

  • Cruz pleaded guilty to his crimes in October

  • Jury shown horrific videos of massacre from student’s phones and CCTV cameras

English teacher testifies in Nikolas Cruz sentencing hearing: ‘It wasn’t a drill'

06:29 , Arpan Rai

The English teacher Dara Hass at the Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida took the stand on Tuesday and recounted how she escaped the shooting by then 19-year-old student Nikolas Cruz.

“The sound was so loud. The students were screaming,” Ms Hass said as she wept and dabbed her eyes with tissue through her testimony.

Until this point on 14 February in 2018, she thought this was a drill among students.

But then, she saw the body of a 14-year-old student who had been fatally struck at his desk.

“That’s when I saw it wasn’t a drill,” she said.

Two 14-year-old girls, Alaina Petty and Alyssa Alhadeff, had also succumbed to the gunshot wounds died in the classroom.

Ms Hass said that she did not want to leave but officers convinced her as they reached the school to carry out evacuations.

“I wanted to stay with the students who couldn’t go,” she said, referring to Schachter, Petty and Alhadeff.

ICYMI: Biden interrupted by Parkland father at White House event

06:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Joe Biden was interrupted by Parkland father Manuel Oliver during a White House event celebrating the passage of a bipartisan gun safety bill.

Mr Oliver, who lost his son Joaquin during the 2018 Florida shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School, stood up during the president’s speech on the White House lawn.

Gustaf Kilander reports.

Biden interrupted by Parkland father at event celebrating bipartisan gun legislation

Video of shooting accurately reflects Cruz’s crimes: Judge Scherer

05:40 , Arpan Rai

Circuit judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed objection by Nikolas Cruz’s attorney yesterday after they asked for the video of the mass shooting to be not played.

Dismissing the objection by defence, the judge said that a video that accurately reflects Cruz’s crimes does not unfairly prejudice his case.

According to the prosecutors, the video proves several aggravating factors such as Cruz acting in a cold, calculated and cruel manner.

Jury reacts to violent videos presented at sentencing trial

04:30 , Arpan Rai

More videos from the day of mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, high school were presented to the trial jury at the sentencing hearing on Tuesday.

The visuals, showing Cruz crouching and stalking, firing at anything that moves, down the halls and into classrooms, was gathered from 13 security cameras inside the school premises.

As the video played out, 12 jurors and 10 alternates stared at the video screens intently, while many held hands to their faces as they watched the 15-minute recording.

This gruesome video was not shown to people and family members of survivors and victims sitting in the gallery, and it carried no sound unlike the audio played on Monday.

Some of the people watching the video were seen visibly squirming and a juror looked at the screen, looked up at Cruz with wide eyes and then returned to watch the video.

Meanwhile, Cruz was seen exchanging occasional whispers with one of his attorneys and did not watch the video.

Attorney’s representing Cruz had objected to playing the video, who had argued that the witness statements of what happened would suffice and that the any evidentiary value the video has is outweighed by the emotions it would raise in the jurors.

Judge assigned to death penalty case at random

04:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was assigned the case of a former Florida student who gunned down 17 people in 2018 despite never having overseen a death penalty trial or one with much publicity.

Florida judge was assigned to school shooter case at random

Missed warning signs, failings, and lessons learned

03:00 , Oliver O'Connell

As the Parkland community braces for the sentencing trial for Nikolas Cruz, the man who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, The Independent’s Rachel Sharp investigates what led up to the massacre and what’s happened since.

Missed warning signs, failings and lessons learned: Nikolas Cruz and Parkland

Watch: Chris McKenna testifies Nikolas Cruz told him to get out before massacre

02:00 , Oliver O'Connell

A timeline of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

01:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Nikolas Cruz, the man convicted of shooting dead 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February 2018, will face sentencing for his crimes beginning on Monday 18 July.

Cruz – a former student at the institution who had been a member of its air rifle team being being expelled over his disciplinary record – was just 19 when he arrived that day in an Uber bearing a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and gunned down 14 students and three members of staff in what proved to be one of the deadliest school massacres in American history.

Here’s how events unfolded:

A timeline of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Today in court: Survivors give harrowing testimony on second day of trial

Wednesday 20 July 2022 00:00 , Oliver O'Connell

On day two of the sentencing phase in the trial of Nikolas Cruz, who committed one of the worst mass shootings in US history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, teacher and student survivors told the jury of their experiences that day.

Here’s what the court heard on Tuesday.

Parkland survivors recall high school massacre in harrowing testimony

Survivor tells of lingering side effects of injuries

Tuesday 19 July 2022 23:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Parkland survivor Samantha Fuentes testified on Tuesday that her injuries left her with lingering problems after the deadly shooting.

“I don’t have the same range of motion or stamina as I once did when I was more able-bodied,” she told the court.

Parkland victims remembered ahead of shooter’s sentencing trial

Tuesday 19 July 2022 22:01 , Oliver O'Connell

Chris Hixon was murdered along with 16 other people in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018. His widow Debbi Hixon tells The Independent’s Rachel Sharp how she hopes the sentencing trial of his killer will finally enable her family to start to grieve.

Parkland victim’s widow speaks out ahead of his killer’s sentencing trial

Parkland school teacher describes shooting

Tuesday 19 July 2022 21:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Parkland school teacher Dara Hass cried during her testimony about the events of 14 February 2018, recalling injured students, a frantic call to 911, and a room filling with smoke.

Court adjourns for the day

Tuesday 19 July 2022 20:37 , Oliver O'Connell

After a day of harrowing testimony from survivors of the 2018 shooting, several of whom were injured when Cruz opened fire through their classroom doors, the court has adjourned for the day.

The penalty phase of the trial will resume at 9am tomorrow morning.

New witness: Michael Powell

Tuesday 19 July 2022 20:27 , Oliver O'Connell

Michael Powell is a math teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who has been with the school for six years.

On the day of the shooting, he was in charge of the “personalisation class” or study hall.

Mr Powell recalls hearing three loud booms. He initially thought it was a drill as they had been told there would be one at some point following some training the month before.

He told the kids in the class to move into an alcove beside the door away from the line of sight from the window in the door.

As the noise continued he realised that the situation was not a drill. Checking the door he let a boy into the room and then four girls who had been hiding in the bathroom opposite. There were now approximately 30 kids in the classroom and he turned off the lights and made sure they were around the corner from the door.

He remembers the fire alarm was going off and it felt like the shots were going off all around them.

New witness: Ana Martins

Tuesday 19 July 2022 20:17 , Oliver O'Connell

After the afternoon recess, the next witness was in room 1215 shortly before Cruz began his attack on the school.

Ana Martins, who was 14 at the time, testified she returned to the classroom from the bathroom with a friend, chatting briefly with Gina Montalto who was in the hall working on her laptop while they waited for someone to unlock the classroom door.

Back in the classroom, two boys in the hallway knocked on the door to be let in — Luke Hoyer and Martin Duque. She was reaching for the door handle when the first shots rang out. Sophia pulled her away from the door before she could open it and they hid under the teacher’s desk.

Ms Martins says they heard more shots and screams and someone begging for the door to be opened. The fire alarm went off before the police came to evacuate them.

Gina, Luke, and Martin were all killed.

Ana Martins testifies about the Parkland high school shooting at the penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz’s trial (CBS12 News)
Ana Martins testifies about the Parkland high school shooting at the penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz’s trial (CBS12 News)

Next witness: Samantha Fuentes

Tuesday 19 July 2022 19:35 , Oliver O'Connell

Fellow student Samantha Fuentes who was also in the same class and was injured is now on the stand.

When shots rang out and everyone dispersed, Ms Fuentes realised she was exposed and crawled across the floor towards a wooden podium as shots began to enter the room.

Ms Fuentes recalls being hit and temporarily losing her vision and hearing. She could see Cruz standing at the window of the door when the shooting stopped. The two students who died, Nick Dworet and Helena Ramsay, were laying on the ground beside her. She and other students checked their pulses but they had passed away.

She had holes in her pants and blood in her eyes and in her hair from her injuries and when police evacuated them they told her to look up not down, but she still saw two bodies in the hallway.

Ms Fuentes had a gunshot wound above her knee and shrapnel in various parts of her body - including behind her eye. She doesn’t have the same range of motion or stamina that she once did.

Samantha Fuentes testifies about her injuries during the Parkland high school shooting at the penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz’s trial (Law & Crime)
Samantha Fuentes testifies about her injuries during the Parkland high school shooting at the penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz’s trial (Law & Crime)

New witness: Samantha Grady

Tuesday 19 July 2022 19:21 , Oliver O'Connell

Samantha Grady goes to Nova Southeastern University as a pre-Med biology major.

She graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2019. Ms Grady was also in the History of the Holocaust class.

When the gunshots were first heard, Ms Grady didn’t move at first not knowing if it was real. She recalls Helena Ramsay tapping her on the shoulder to get her to move.

She and Helena tried to get behind the filing cabinets that other students had moved but there was no room, so they stayed as close as possible — at one point trying to protect themselves with books.

There were gunshots into the classroom from the hallway and she was injured — a graze on her back and a ricochet into her chest.

Ms Grady remembers other injured people including Samantha Fuentes, and seeing that Nick Dworet and Helena Ramsay, who had been next to her, had been fatally shot.

Cruz is writing or doodling with his head down during her testimony.

New witness: Daniella Menescal

Tuesday 19 July 2022 19:10 , Oliver O'Connell

Testifying next is Daniella Menescal who was in the same History of the Holocaust class as Ms Chequer and was also injured. She is now a senior at Boston University.

She recalls talking to a friend when they heard loud bangs. As practiced, they went to the corners of the room and she and the other students moved a filing cabinet for protection.

Ms Menescal was not entirely covered and felt a sharp pain in her back. Looking down she saw her pants were covered in blood.

From her vantage point, she could not see the other corner of the room where other students were sheltering but could see that other students were wounded including Isabelle Chequer.

Ms Menescal also saw that Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet were fatally wounded.

New witness: Isabelle Chequer

Tuesday 19 July 2022 18:58 , Oliver O'Connell

Isabelle Chequer is another former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas who also now goes to the University of Central Florida where she is soon to graduate.

On the day of the shooting, she was in the History of the Holocaust class in the 1200 building.

She described how the class was finishing group presentations when she heard three or four shots. The class ran into different corners of the classroom and she moved from her spot in sight of the window in the door to another corner and hid behind a filing cabinet.

Ms Chequer was grazed twice by bullets on her right foot and left arm and saw that two students she was sheltering with were also injured.

Looking up she saw that fellow student Helena Ramsay had passed away from her wounds. As they were being taken out of the room she saw that Nicholas Dworet had also been killed. They were both 17 years old.

Nicholas’ brother Alex was in a neighbouring classroom and testified earlier today. He was wounded in the back of the head.

New witness: Dara Hass

Tuesday 19 July 2022 18:42 , Oliver O'Connell

Testifying next is Dara Hass, an employee of Broward County Schools, who has worked at Marjory Stoneman Douglas since 201 as an English teacher.

The student survivors who have testified so far today were in Ms Hass’ class on 14 February 2018.

She remembers the students working on an assignment when they heard the initial gunshots. Ms Hass says it happened quickly and she initially thought it was a drill.

Students began screaming and shouting and she saw that Alex Schachter had been hit by gunfire before he could even get up from his desk.

Ms Hass recalls students doing their best to stay safe in a classroom where there was nowhere to go. She remembers the air becoming hazy and debris flying across the room and injured students.

All of a sudden it was quiet. The police came in to retrieve them and she wanted to stay with the students who were injured.

Outside she saw William Olson — who testified earlier — who was covered in blood and in shock and unsure if he was injured. Ms Hass helped him and other students who were badly injured. She recalls them all by name.

Again, Cruz has his hand on his head during her testimony.

New witness: Kheshava Mangapuran

Tuesday 19 July 2022 18:26 , Oliver O'Connell

The state’s next witness is Kheshava Mangapuram. He too was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in February 2018 and is now a student at the University of Central Florida.

He recalls not realising what the noise was when it began but then remembers getting under a table when the shooting began through the door of the classroom. He was hit in the side of the stomach.

Mr Mangapuram also saw William Olson, who testified earlier, and Alex Schachter, who died, get hit by shots coming from the doorway.

A second round of shots that he believed to be coming from a neighbouring classroom he later found out was a second attack on the room his class was trapped in.

Who were the Parkland victims?

Tuesday 19 July 2022 18:06 , Oliver O'Connell

Cruz killed 17 people on 14 February 2018, including both students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

14-year-old student Alyssa Alhadeff

35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel

14-year-old student Martin Duque Anguiano

17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet

37-year-old assistant football coach Aaron Feis

14-year-old student Jaime Guttenberg

49-year-old athletic director Christopher Hixon

15-year-old student Luke Hoyer

14-year-old student Cara Loughran

14-year-old student Gina Montalto

17-year-old student Joaquin Oliver

14-year-old student Alaina Petty

18-year-old student Meadow Pollack

17-year-old student Helena Ramsay

14-year-old student Alexander Schachter

16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup

15-year-old student Peter Wang.

Charges were 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for those injured.

ICYMI: What happened on day one of the trial?

Tuesday 19 July 2022 17:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Josh Marcus reports on the first day of the penalty phase of the trial of Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty to all charges relating to the Parkland high school massacre of 2018.

Nikolas Cruz hides face as videos of Parkland massacre shown at death penalty hearing

Former student Christopher McKenna identifies Cruz during testimony

Tuesday 19 July 2022 17:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Former student Christopher McKenna identifies Nikolas Cruz as the man whole told him ‘Get out of here! Things are about to get bad!’ moments before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 (REUTERS)
Former student Christopher McKenna identifies Nikolas Cruz as the man whole told him ‘Get out of here! Things are about to get bad!’ moments before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 (REUTERS)

Therapy dogs available at court for victims’ families

Tuesday 19 July 2022 16:45 , Oliver O'Connell

With so much traumatic testimony and graphic video evidence making up the state’s case against Nikolas Cruz, two therapy dogs were made available for the families of the victims of the Parkland school shooting.

Tuesday 19 July 2022 15:59 , Oliver O'Connell

Court breaks early for an extended lunch break.

The case resumes at 1pm.

New witness: Alex Dworet

Tuesday 19 July 2022 15:58 , Oliver O'Connell

The next witness is Alex Dworet. He was a student at the school on the day of the massacre and now works for Audi having attended technical college. He was in English class that day.

He heard loud noises coming from the hall and then felt something hot on the back of his head and realised he was in danger and went to the corner of the room.

Mr Dworet saw blood trickling down him and he touched the back of his head and his hand came back bloody.

 (CBS12 News)
(CBS12 News)

He looked over and saw his friend, Alex Schacter aged 14, fatally injured and still half at his desk with blood pooling beneath him.

When police arrived, Mr Dworet was taken to an ambulance to be treated for the injury to the back of his head.

New witness: William Olson

Tuesday 19 July 2022 15:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Court resumes and a new witness takes the stand is William Olson.

He was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2018 and was in class in the 1200 building that day and recalls hearing the shots but initially was unsure what the noise was.

Looking over at his friend Alex he sees that he is not moving. He then found himself on the floor in front of the teacher’s desk. He had been shot by Cruz but survived the attack.

Mr Olson’s parents are sitting in court and are visibly upset as their son recounts what transpired that day.

 (Law & Crime)
(Law & Crime)

Once police arrived on the scene, Mr Olson recalls he was able to call his mother using the phone of a friend’s mother and she took him to West Boca hospital.

A photo of Olson’s wounds on his arm is shown to the jury. No questions from the defense.

Tuesday 19 July 2022 15:12 , Oliver O'Connell

The court takes a short mid-morning break.

New witness: Christopher McKenna

Tuesday 19 July 2022 15:08 , Oliver O'Connell

Christopher McKenna has been called to the stand. He was the student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas that encountered Cruz in the stairwell of the 1200 building before he began his rampage. He is now a second-year college student having graduated from high school in 2021.

On that afternoon in 2018, Cruz told him to get out of the building as things were about to get bad.

He fled the building and found Coach Aaron Feis. They could hear gunshots. The coach said he would go and see what was happening.

A fire alarm went off and students began to flee other buildings. He ran through the neighbouring school and the nearby Walmart and ended up at a friend’s house where he called his father who worked in law enforcement at the time.

Mr McKenna is shown surveillance footage of his movements at the school that day. He is also asked to identify Cruz as the man he saw in the stairwell and points at him.

New witness: Daniel Booth

Tuesday 19 July 2022 15:00 , Oliver O'Connell

The state’s next witness is a software engineer for Invigalign, Daniel Booth. He writes software for video recording systems.

He confirms that the raw data from the video surveillance system is the same as the extracted data.

Mr Booth is asked about the dust that fell from the ceiling during Cruz’s attack (caused by the reverberations from the gunshots), he explains that the dust would obscure the movement of people in the distance which would account for any skips in the footage the jury was just shown.

Jury shown surveillance montage of Cruz moving through school

Tuesday 19 July 2022 14:50 , Oliver O'Connell

The new video evidence being shown to the jury is a compilation of security camera footage tracking Cruz as he moved through the 1200 building on 14 February 2018.

Unlike yesterday’s disturbing cellphone footage captured by students, it is silent.

Law & Crime’s Angenette Levy reports from the courtroom that jurors are looking upset, covering their mouths in shock at what they see. There is silence in court.

The footage shows Cruz murdering or injuring dozens of students and teachers at high school.

Cruz’s head is down, though he also appears at times to be talking quietly to his lawyer.

New witness: Ron Lowther

Tuesday 19 July 2022 14:37 , Oliver O'Connell

The jury is brought in and the state’s first witness of the day is called — Ron Lowther, Broward Sheriff’s office, electronic surveillance technician. He retrieves and processes video evidence and has 24 years of experience.

Like yesterday, a whiteboard has been wheeled into place to block the live feed camera from capturing any videos that will be shown to the jury. Audio will still be heard as when yesterday’s horrific cellphone videos captured by surviving students were shown in court.

Mr Lowther testifies that he was able to put together a linear video feed of Cruz as he moved through the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on 14 February 2018.

He also made similar videos of 22 subjects who were in the building that day to track their movements, circling them to distinguish them when in a crowded situation.