AP

Parkland school shooter acted casually after fleeing

Jul 21, 2022, 10:34 AM | Updated: 11:00 am

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student John Wilford testifies about encountering Nikol...

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student John Wilford testifies about encountering Nikolas Cruz at a McDonalds shortly after the school shooting. Wilford's sister Maddie was shot and severely injured in the shooting. Nikolas Cruz is in court for the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Cruz previously plead 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, Pool)

(Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz walked casually into a sandwich shop minutes after he murdered 14 students and three staff members at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four years ago, showing no signs of stress or nervousness, video played at his penalty trial Thursday showed.

Cruz then walked to a nearby McDonald’s, where, by coincidence, he unsuccessfully sought a ride from the brother of a girl he had seriously wounded. The boy did not not know who Cruz was.

Thursday’s abbreviated court session focused on Cruz’s attempted escape after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting and his arrest, about an hour after he fled the campus. The mostly low-key testimony and evidence stood in contrast with the previous three emotional days, which covered the seven minutes Cruz stalked a three-story classroom building firing his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle into crowded classrooms and hallways.

After the shooting, Cruz fled the building, dressed in a burgundy shirt from the Stoneman Douglas Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps — he had been a member when he attended the school — and a New York City Police Department cap.

The former Stoneman Douglas student blended in with students who were evacuating campus and went to a nearby Walmart, where security video shows that 25 minutes after he stopped shooting he turned into the Subway sandwich shop inside the entrance.

Store manager Carlos Rugeles testified that Cruz ordered a cherry and blue raspberry Icee. The video shows that when Cruz got his drink and change, he tossed the coins into the tip jar, stuck a straw into the lid and walked out.

Eight minutes later, Cruz entered a nearby McDonald’s, still drinking his Icee, store video shows. He climbed into a booth with then-Stoneman Douglas freshman John Wilford, who did not know him.

Wilford testified that he didn’t know exactly what had happened at the school, but after evacuating he had been trying to call his older sister Maddy — he didn’t know she had been seriously wounded by this stranger. When he couldn’t reach her, he called his mom, who said she would pick him up.

He then tried to make small talk with Cruz.

“I told him, ‘This is so chaotic, it’s crazy with all these helicopters and squad cars. What do you think this could be?'” Wilford recalled. “He didn’t say much. He had his head down.”

A minute later, Wilford went to meet his mother in the parking lot. Cruz followed and asked for a ride, but Wilford said no.

“He was pretty insistent on it. I wasn’t really thinking much of it. I just wanted to get home and my sister wasn’t answering her phone,” Wilford said.

Cruz walked away. He was arrested about a half-hour later by Michael Leonard, an officer with the neighboring Coconut Creek Police Department. Leonard testified he was driving through neighborhoods looking for anyone matching the shooter’s description.

The officer was 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the school and about to drive back toward it when he spotted Cruz walking on a residential street. He said he stopped and Cruz looked at him. He pulled his gun and ordered Cruz to the ground. Cruz complied.

A search found $350 in Cruz’s pocket.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder. The jury must only decide if he should be sentenced to death or life without parole for the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury.

Nine other gunmen who killed at least 17 people died during or immediately after their shootings, either by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 slaying of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

When jurors eventually get the case, probably in October or November, they 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 defense’s mitigators. A juror can also vote for life out of mercy for Cruz. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they are capable of voting for either sentence.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

13 hours ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

14 hours ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

2 days ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

4 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

4 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Parkland school shooter acted casually after fleeing