Parkland school shooting latest updates: Jury mulls death penalty for Nikolas Cruz as trial set to resume on Monday

Parkland teacher tells court of moment students took cover in 2018 shooting

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.

A former student at the school, Cruz was 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.

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Watch: Parkland teacher testifies about helping wounded students

Parkland teacher testifies about helping wounded students

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ICYMI | Parkland survivor David Hogg thrown out of House gun control meeting

Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg was thrown out of a House Judiciary Committee meeting about gun control on Wednesday after he confronted a GOP lawmaker about “reiterating the points of mass shooters”.

Mr Hogg, a prominent gun safety advocate, was in the gallery of the meeting as Republican Rep Andy Biggs claimed that residents in his state of Arizona need assault weapons to defend themselves against the “invasion” of immigrants.

“The reality is it is an invasion of our southern border,” he said.

The lawmaker argued that – if a ban of assault weapons comes into force – people who live within 10 miles of the US’s southern border with Mexico must be exempt because they need “to protect themselves” from people who he claims “pose a danger or threat”.

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Warning signs surrounding Cruz

In an analysis of what led up to the 2018 shooting, The Independent’s Rachel Sharp writes: “Almost immediately after the massacre, these warning signs about Cruz began to emerge.

“From the age of just three, the future mass killer had already shown a tendency for violence.

“Over the years, he then grew into a teenager who enjoyed killing small animals, made many violent threats, boasted about becoming the next school shooter online, decorated his items with Swastikas, and developed an obsession for firearms.

“Worse still, his behaviour was well-documented.”

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Widow of Parkland victim: ‘We live it every day’

Debbie Hixon, whose husband was among the 17 people killed by Cruz, spoke to The Independent’s Rachel Sharp ahead of his sentencing trial.

“I try to explain to people when they say ‘how are you doing on the grieving process?’ that I don’t think – until we get to the other side of the trial – any of us have even got to the true start of the grieving process,” Ms Hixon said.

“We live it every day. It’s a movie that runs in my head all the time.

“I don’t even know if we will have closure at the end of it but it’s just been constant anticipation as we knew that we would have to see him in court and see him on TV.

“So I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s starting – I’m not glad but we can’t get to the end until it starts.”

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Why did Biden give school police $300m?

After the Parkland shooting, Florida moved to require every public school in the state to have armed security personnel on campus to stop mass shootings, even though such security was present and failed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

“But that wasn’t a new idea,” The Independent’s Josh Marcus writes. “The same solution had been proposed two decades earlier, after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, where an armed school resource officers was present at the time of the shooting and didn’t stop gunmen from killing 15 people.

“And it’s the same fix being put into place now, after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. That’s despite the fact that months of active shooter training, tens of thousands of dollars in security investments, and multiple armed police officers failed to stop gunman Salvador Ramos from entering Robb Elementary School and killing 21 people, and hundreds of officers failed to engage the 18-year-old for more than an hour as he continued shooting students inside.

“The much-touted bipartisan gun deal President Joe Biden signed in June doubles funding for school police and other school security measures, investing $300m more in federal anti-violence grants.”

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Parkland victims remembered

The 14 students killed in the Parkland massacre were: Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang.

The three adults killed were: Scott Beigel, Chris Hixon and Aaron Feis.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp shares their stories:

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Explained: What happened during the Parkland massacre

As the second week of Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing trial looms, The Independent’s Rachel Sharp explains what led up to the 2018 massacre and what’s happened since:

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ICYMI: Day five features harrowing testimony from law enforcement

Day five of Cruz’s sentencing hearing was chock full of heartbreaking testimony from law enforcement officers who responded to the scene of the massacre.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp recaps what they said:

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Parkland survivor thrown out of House gun control meeting

As Cruz’s sentencing hearing unfolded in Florida, a survivor of the shooting caused a stir in Washington, DC, by interrupting a House meeting on gun control.

David Hogg, a prominent gun safety advocate, was in the gallery of the meeting as Republican Rep Andy Biggs claimed that residents in his state of Arizona need assault weapons to defend themselves against the “invasion” of immigrants.

As he made his comments, Mr Hogg rose to his feet and passionately interrupted proceedings telling him that his claims echoed comments made by several mass killers.

“You’re reiterating the points of mass shooters in your manifesto!” he shouted.

“The shooter in my high school: antiSemitic, anti-Black and racist. The shooter in El Paso described it as an invasion.”

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp reports:

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Victim’s brother recounts sitting with Cruz at McDonald’s

John Wilford, whose sister was killed in the massacre, testified on Thursday about how Cruz came to sit down next to him at McDonald’s.

Mr Wilford said that he had no idea at the time that the man sitting with him was the person responsible for carrying out the horrific mass shooting that left 17 dead.

He said that he had never met Cruz before and didn’t think too much about him sitting there at the time as he was too busy worrying about his sister.

“I didn’t think much of it as I was panicked,” he said.

Mr Wilford said he assumed Cruz was also a student at the school because he was wearing a Douglas JROTC shirt.

He said he started speaking to Cruz about what had happened saying “this is so chaotic” and asking him “what do you think this could be”.

Cruz “didn’t really say much” and just sat with his “head down”, he said.

Parkland school shooting: Footage shows Nikolas Cruz in McDonald’s after attack

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