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Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder rather than going through full trial

 Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty to the murders of 14 students and three staff, his lawyers told a court on Friday. 

The guilty plea will set up a penalty phase where Cruz, 23, would be fighting against the death penalty and hoping for life without parole.

Attorneys for Cruz told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he will plead guilty on Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder over the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The pleas will come with no conditions and prosecutors still plan to seek the death penalty. That will be decided by a jury but the trial has not been scheduled.

Cruz will also plead guilty to 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder and to attacking a jail guard nine months after the shooting. He was not present during the hearing.

The trial has been delayed by the pandemic and arguments between the prosecution and defense over what evidence and testimony could be presented to the jury.

On Friday, he also pleaded guilty to four charges from a jail assault on a deputy who was guarding him. 

Nikolas Cruz, now 23, pictured in court on October 6. In 2018, the then-19-year-old burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle, 'multiple magazines' and smoke grenades killing 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 more people

Nikolas Cruz, now 23, pictured in court on October 6. In 2018, the then-19-year-old burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle, 'multiple magazines' and smoke grenades killing 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 more people

One of Cruz's attorneys could be seen handing him some colored pencils and a page from a coloring book featuring the Pokémon character Pikachu on October 6

One of Cruz's attorneys could be seen handing him some colored pencils and a page from a coloring book featuring the Pokémon character Pikachu on October 6

Cruz is believed to have set off fire alarms to draw people out into the halls shortly after 2pm before he opened fire - and then managed to evade police by pretending to be a student running for cover. He was taken into custody an hour later. Pictured are students evacuating the Parkland high school after the deadly attack

Cruz is believed to have set off fire alarms to draw people out into the halls shortly after 2pm before he opened fire - and then managed to evade police by pretending to be a student running for cover. He was taken into custody an hour later. Pictured are students evacuating the Parkland high school after the deadly attack

Some victims' families had expressed frustration over the delays but the president of the group they formed expressed relief that the case now seems closer to resolution.

'We just hope the system gives him justice,' said Tony Montalto, of Stand With Parkland. His 14-year-old daughter, Gina, died in the shooting.

The decision by Cruz and his attorneys to plead guilty came unexpectedly. Preparations were being made to begin jury selection within the next few months.

He had been set to go on trial next week for the attack on the Broward County jail guard.

Cruz and his lawyers had long offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence but prosecutors had repeatedly rejected that deal, saying the case deserved a death sentence.

Cruz's rampage crushed the veneer of safety in Parkland, an upper-middle-class community outside Fort Lauderdale with little crime. Its educational crown jewel is Stoneman Douglas, a campus of 3,200 students that is one of the top-ranked public schools in the state.


Cruz, then 19, burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February 2018, armed with an AR-15 rifle, 'multiple magazines' and smoke grenades after arriving in an Uber. 

He killed 14 students and three staff members, and wounded 17 more people. 

Cruz is believed to have set off fire alarms to draw people out into the halls shortly after 2pm before he opened fire - and then managed to evade police by pretending to be a student running for cover. He was taken into custody an hour later.  

Cruz was a long-time but troubled resident. Since pre-school he had been treated for emotional problems and was known by neighbors for torturing animals.

Broward sheriff's deputies were frequently called to the home in an upscale neighborhood he shared with his widowed mother and younger brother for disturbances, but they said nothing was ever reported that could have led to his arrest. A state commission that investigated the shooting agreed.

Cruz alternated between traditional schools and those for troubled students. In one year of middle school, he averaged three disciplinary incidents per month.

He attended Stoneman Douglas starting in 10th grade, but his troubles remained — at one point, he was prohibited from carrying a backpack to make sure he did not carry a weapon. Still, he was allowed to participate on the school's rifle team.

Gabe Ermine, left, and Jaclyn Broudy stand with their client, Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, as prospective jurors enter the courtroom in Fort Lauderdale on October 5

Gabe Ermine, left, and Jaclyn Broudy stand with their client, Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, as prospective jurors enter the courtroom in Fort Lauderdale on October 5

He was expelled about a year before the attack after numerous incidents of unusual behavior and at least one fight.

He began posting photos online of himself with guns and made videos threatening to commit violence, including at the school. It was about this time he purchased the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he would use in the shooting.

When Cruz's mother died of pneumonia in November 2017, four months before the shooting, he began staying with friends, taking his 10 guns with him.

Someone, worried about his emotional state, called the FBI a month before the shooting to warn agents he might kill people. The information was never forwarded to the agency's South Florida office and Cruz was never investigated or contacted.

Another acquaintance called the Broward Sheriff's Office with a similar warning, but when the deputy learned Cruz was then living with a family friend in neighboring Palm Beach County he told the caller to contact that sheriff's office.

In the weeks before the shooting, Cruz began making videos proclaiming he was going to be the 'next school shooter of 2018'. Shortly before the massacre, he made one where he said: 'Today is the day. Today it all begins. The day of my massacre shall begin.'

The shooting happened on Valentine's Day, minutes before the end of the school day. Students had exchanged balloons, flowers and other gifts and many were dressed in red.

Earlier this month, Cruz wept in Broward County Court when Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled that he could not draw with colored pencils in the jury selection process of the battery trial, for which he could be sentenced an additional 15 years.

On Wednesday, the jury selection process continued in the prison attack trial, as attorneys struggled to find prospective jurors who could try Cruz impartially. But in the first group of 32, one prospect cried after seeing Cruz in the courtroom.

It was the third time that has happened in two days, NBC South Florida reports.

The sight appeared to upset Cruz, and one of his attorneys could be seen handing him some colored pencils and a page from a coloring book featuring the Pokémon character Pikachu, according to Andrew Lofholm, a reporter for CBS 12.

After that group left, NBC South Florida reports, prosecutor Maria Schneider accused Cruz's attorneys of giving him the colored pencils to make him appear sympathetic.

 'They are doing [that] so the jury perceives that he is a child, that his mentality is somehow challenged,' she argued to Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer. 

Stoneman Douglas students revealed they were scared of the gun obsessed 19-year-old who would boast about hurting animals and would take knives and bullets into school. His former classmates say they always suspected he was capable of carrying out such a heinous crime.

It also appears that the FBI missed out on an opportunity to intervene before the shooting, when a bail bondsman in Mississippi last year alerted the feds about an alarming online message Cruz wrote saying he was 'going to be a professional school shooter'.

Cruz, who stopped getting mental health treatment about a year before the mass-shooting, had been expelled from the school where he carried out the shooting after fighting with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend.  

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