Families tell court of lives lost at 2018 Parkland school attack

2 August 2022, 10:14

School Shooting Florida
School Shooting Florida. Picture: PA

The jury also saw three videos Nikolas Cruz made before his attack, discussing his plan to kill at least 20 people at his former high school.

Family members from three of Florida school gunman Nikolas Cruz’s 17 victims gave statements on Monday about how their 2018 deaths at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have affected their lives.

The sister of student Joaquin Oliver and the families of student Alaina Petty and teacher Scott Beigel spoke to the court. Cruz sat at the defence table, occasionally glancing at the video screen in front of him.

The jury also saw three cellphone videos Cruz made in the days before his attack, discussing his plan to kill at least 20 people at Stoneman Douglas, his former school.

They also saw text messages he made on the day of the attack, Valentine’s Day, to a former girlfriend expressing his unrequited love for her and to a friend, asking whether he could find a date for him that night. He did, but the text telling Cruz arrived just as his Uber was dropping him off at the school.

Patricia Oliver, Joaquin’s mother, told the seven-man, five-woman jury that he was a gentle and kind boy, aged 17 with plans to attend college so he could work in sports management. She said there was an outpouring of love after his death.

“I never knew he had so many friends,” she said. “Our life has been shattered and changed forever.”

His older sister, Andrea Ghersi, spoke of how when she has children she will have to explain to them why they don’t have an uncle.

Alaina Petty’s mother, Kelly, said she loved her short time in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she had helped in hurricane recovery the summer before her death.

“She loved her friends, she loved her family and, most importantly, she loved God,” Kelly Petty said.

“She was an angel on Earth and she should still be here,” Alaina’s sister Meghan said.

Teacher Scott Beigel’s mother, Linda Schulman, and his stepfather, Michael Schulman, talked of his love for teaching, his students and baseball.

School Shooting Florida
Michael Schulman gives his victim impact statement during the penalty phase in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman Nikolas Cruz’s trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP/PA)

Michael Schulman said that when he told Scott he wanted to marry his mother, he said his only response was, “All I ask is that you make my mother happy.”

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October, meaning the jury will decide only whether he is sentenced to death or life without parole.

On Monday the jurors saw the three cellphone videos he made starting six days before his attack.

In the first two, he is not seen. Only his voice is heard.

“Today is the day. Today it all begins. The day of my massacre shall begin,” he said in the first. In the second, he says, “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am. You’re all going to die… Can’t wait.”

In the final video, taken three days before the shooting, Cruz talks into the camera and says he is “going to be the next school shooter of 2018”. He ends the video by making gun noises.

In text messages, starting about 90 minutes before the attack, Cruz tells his ex-girlfriend he loves her then asks “Do you want me to go away?”

She replied, “You’re scaring me and I want you to leave me alone.” She told him she had a boyfriend. He replied he didn’t care. As he arrived at the school, he texted her once more he loved her.

School Shooting-Florida
Nikolas Cruz previously pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP/PA)

Meanwhile, a friend he had spent several hours texting with about possibly getting him a date that night, also responded that he had found a girl who would hang out with him. That text also arrived as Cruz was arriving at the school.

“Too late man,” Cruz responded. Three minutes later the attack began.

Jurors will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend capital punishment.

For each death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life.

The jurors are told that to vote for death, the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances for that victim must, in their judgment, “outweigh” the defence’s mitigators. A juror can also vote for life out of mercy for Cruz.

By Press Association

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