The gunman who slaughtered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018 had been contemplating a school shooting “for a very long time,” according to his own words in jailhouse interviews conducted by two mental health experts.
That was just one of the revelations at the trial of Nikolas Cruz from last week, where prosecutors played the video in which he answered their questions in frank and often graphic detail.
Cruz, now 24, told them about his meticulous planning, his motivation, and how he studied other school shootings “for years” to weed out potential weaknesses. Cruz also provided a nearly minute-by-minute timeline of his actions from that day, including the shootings themselves.
Cruz’s defense team argued he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, which had likely damaged the development of his brain function. Cruz likely has an antisocial personality disorder, but it was previously ruled by the court that he can control his actions and had faked the behaviors of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Former MSD student testified he saw Nikolas Cruz wearing this backpack. Student says he took this picture. "I was personally shocked by it, that someone would walk around in public with that, much less at a school." #ParklandSchoolShooter pic.twitter.com/SeKXumSyRE
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) October 3, 2022
In the interviews he held separately with Missouri neuropsychologist Robert Denney and Dr. Charles Scott, a forensic psychiatrist, Cruz revealed that he’d tortured animals in the past, which is an indicator of future violence against people. “I burned, I tortured them, I skinned them alive, I shot them,” Cruz says in a flat tone in the video.
MOMENTS AGO: “A big difference between a mental disease or defect & a personality disorder.” Disorders: “They can control it if they want to, if it serves. … They care about themselves but they don’t care about the rights of other people.” #NikolasCruz https://t.co/4oD4mr9TaV pic.twitter.com/MpBedRWit9
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) October 6, 2022
Cruz also shared why he chose Valentine’s Day for the shooting and explained that the holiday should be ruined because no one loved him.
“Do you mean for the family members of the kids that were killed?” Denney asked. “No, for the school,” Cruz said, noting that the romantic day would never be celebrated again at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the atrocity.
2/2 MOMENTS AGO: …He’s saying where he's going to do it. He's saying what year he’s going to do it. And he’s saying even how he’s going to get there. He's going to take an Uber.” #NikolasCruz https://t.co/4IbOA9Px6n pic.twitter.com/uUcv0Oikkt
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) October 3, 2022
Prosecutors also shared a clip in which Cruz admitted he studied previous mass shootings — including the 1999 Columbine massacre — in the years before launching his own attack.
“I did my own research,” Cruz told Scott. “I studied mass murderers and how they did it, their plans, what they got and what they used.” Cruz emotionlessly detailed the “lessons” he learned: Watch for would-be rescuers coming around corners, keep some distance from your targeted victims, attack as fast as possible — and “the police didn’t do anything.” He also calculated how many people he could kill in the time he would have before the police might act. “I have a small opportunity to shoot people for maybe 20 minutes,” Cruz said.
MOMENTS AGO: #NikolasCruz's extremely low score on Finger Tapping Test vs. committing massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Prosecution clinical neuropsychologist: “They don’t fit together for me. The real-world functioning doesn’t match the test result.” https://t.co/4W28n5PCYJ pic.twitter.com/Hg3l3X4Sfd
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) October 4, 2022
For Nikolas Cruz to get a death sentence, the jury must be unanimous on at least one victim. If all 17 counts come back with at least one vote in favor of life in prison, then that would be his sentence.
The jury will likely decide Cruz’s fate this week, as closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, with deliberations beginning Wednesday.
Tara Dublin is a woefully underappreciated and unrepresented writer currently shopping a super cool novel that has nothing to do with politics while also fighting fascism on the daily.
Follow her on Twitter @taradublinrocks.