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Parkland Gunman Gives Statement On Drugs And Racism As He Pleads Guilty To 2018 School Massacre

The young man who stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and massacred teachers and students in 2018 admitted his guilt in court on Wednesday.

By Megan Carpentier
Nikolas Cruz Pleads Guilty In Parkland School Shooting

The young man behind one of the country's deadliest school shootings admitted his culpability on Wednesday and added a bizarre statement about drug use while speaking to the court.

Nikolas Cruz, 23, pled guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder related to the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. During the hearing to accept his plea, Cruz was given an opportunity to address the court.

"I am doing this for you and I do not care if you do not believe me," he said, seemingly to the families of his victims, according to the Miami Herald. "I love you and I know you don’t believe me.”

After expressing that he had difficulty living with himself, Cruz's statement took a turn.

"I hate drugs," he added, as recounted by CNN. "And I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets."

Cruz finished by stating that his ultimate fate should be up to these families, not the jury — though the judge cautioned him that the law dictates that juries make decisions, not families of victims. Pleading guilty means that Cruz, the prosecutor, and the families avoid a trial to determine his guilt, but a jury must still be empaneled to hear evidence and determine whether Cruz will receive the death penalty or life in prison.

Even if the families did decide, some of their statements to the media after the hearing suggest they would not be in favor of a life sentence over the death penalty.

"Justice for us is we want him dead. We want him forgotten,” Tom Hoyer told the Herald outside the court. Hoyer's 15-year-old son, Luke Hoyer, was killed during Cruz's rampage.

"I think he deserves as much of a chance as he gave my daughter and everyone else on February 14 of 2018," Tony Montalto told CNN. His 14-year-old daughter, Gina Montalto, was killed that day.

Cruz's legal team had reportedly said to prosecutors since 2018 that Cruz would plead guilty if they would take the death penalty off the table; prosecutors refused this deal, according to the Tampa Bay Times

By skipping a trial to argue Cruz’s innocence, his legal team can present more mitigating factors — which could include his history of mental health problems and the fact that his biological mother allegedly used crack while pregnant with him, according to the Times and Herald. They could also present evidence of Cruz’s remorse and contrition, which might sway jurors in favor of a life sentence, legal experts told CNN and the Herald.

The prosecution, however, will have the opportunity to present evidence of the heinousness of his crimes and its devastating effect on the victims and their families, whuch could sway jurors in favor of the death penalty.

Cruz killed three Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff members — geography teacher Scott Beigel, 35, athletic director Chris Hixon, 49, and assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis, 37 — as well as 14 students — Hoyer and Montalto, along with Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, Martin Duque, 14, Nicholas Dworet, 17, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Cara Loughran, 14, Joaquin Oliver, 17, Alaina Petty, 14, Meadow Pollack, 18, Helena Ramsay, 17, Alex Schachter, 14, Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Peter Wang, 15 — during the 7-minute shooting spree.

He injured an additional 17 people while at the school that day. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, they were: language arts teacher Stacey Lynn Lippel, 50; Ashley Baez; Anthony Borges, 15, who was the final victim released from the hospital; Isabel Chequer; Justin Colton; Alexander Dworet, 15, whose 17-year-old brother, Nicholas, was killed; Samantha Fuentes,18; Samantha Grady, whose friend, Helena Ramsey, encouraged her to use a book to block the bullets but died that day near her; Marian Kabachenko; Kyle Laman, 15; Kheshava Managapuram; Samantha Mayor; Daniela Menescal, 17; William Olson; Genesis Valentin; Benjamin Wikander; and Madeleine Wilford, 17.

Cruz, who had been expelled from the school, used an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to shoot students in hallways, classrooms and through locked doors; in some instances, he returned to shoot students he'd already injured. Cruz then took steps to blend in with the other students in order to flee the scene as authorities arrived. 

On Friday, in relation to a 2018 incident in prison, Cruz also pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, depriving an officer of means of protection and use of a self-defense weapon against a law enforcement officer, according to CNN. He had reportedly attacked a guard who had asked him not to drag his sandals on the ground, tackling him from behind, punching him, and attempting to take the guard's stun gun, which discharged in their struggle. Cruz then continued to punch the guard until the guard regained control of his weapon and struck Cruz.

He was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for that attack.