Christopher McKenna remembers saying hi to Luke Hoyer and Martin Duque as he passed them in the hallway. School was nearly out, but the freshman needed to use the bathroom, so he got a pass to leave his English class.
Also along the way, McKenna said he ran into Nikolas Cruz in a stairwell. He remembered the teen was wearing a maroon shirt and had a backpack slung over his shoulder. He was assembling an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
“He said, ‘Get out of here,’” McKenna recalled in testimony on Tuesday. “‘Things are about to get bad.’”
McKenna said he took off, sprinting out of the building as the sound of gunshots rang out behind him. He quickly found Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach who doubled as a security guard, and alerted him to what was happening.
Feis drove McKenna to safety on a golf cart before returning to confront Cruz himself. Moments later, Feis was shot dead in the hallway, where the bodies of Hoyer, 15, and Duque, 14, were already lying.
McKenna’s testimony Tuesday came on the second day of trial for Cruz, as prosecutors try to convince a jury that he acted in a cold, calculated, and cruel manner when he murdered 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018. If they are successful, Cruz could be sentenced to death.
Prosecutors laid out Cruz’s actions during the shooting in meticulous detail before they turned to testimony from survivors like McKenna and played security footage of the carnage to jurors.
Some jurors squirmed as they watched Cruz, who had been expelled from the school a year prior, methodically mow down his former classmates, the Associated Press reported, with one juror shifting his gaze between the video and Cruz himself.
The security footage, stitched together from 13 cameras to include every shot Cruz fired, was played for jurors despite objections from defense attorneys.
Cruz’s team claimed any evidentiary value the video provided would be outweighed by the emotions it would raise in jurors. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed the objection, and the video was played for the 10 alternates and 12 jurors, who are tasked with determining whether 23-year-old Cruz, who has already pleaded guilty, should be sentenced to death or life without parole.
Also testifying Tuesday was student Ana Martins, who saw Hoyer and Duque try to escape Cruz before they were gunned down from behind. A friend pulled Martins away from a door to her classroom before she could open it for the pair.
“They were scared,” she said.
A third student who spoke, Alexander Dworet, said he initially thought the sound of fired rounds was from a marching band playing. But then he felt a “hot sensation” on the back of his neck, and he realized what was happening, he said.
“And then I just remember feeling a sensation on the back of my head, like a hot sensation,” Dworet testified. “I realized I was in danger, so I reacted as quickly as possible and tried to get somewhere in cover.”
Dworet said he felt the back of his head and his hand came back bloody—he had been grazed by a bullet. He survived the shooting but his brother, 17-year-old Nicholas Dworet, was killed in the classroom across the hall.
Dara Hass, the English teacher who had just given McKenna a bathroom pass, said three of her students were slain by Cruz. She initially thought the sound of fire alarms set off by Cruz’s rifle was part of a drill. Then she saw her student Alex Schachter collapse at his desk.
“The sound was so loud,” Hass said. “The students were screaming.”
Hass said she told police who evacuated her classroom that she wanted to stay with those who could no longer leave—Schachter, Alaina Petty, and Alyssa Alhadeff. All three had died at 14.
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