Nikolas Cruz, gunman in Parkland, Florida, school shooting, to plead guilty

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Alleged Parkland, Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty on all 17 counts of attempted murder and all 17 counts of premeditated murder, his attorney said Friday.

The 23-year-old suspect, police said, has confessed to the 2018 massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In a separate case, Cruz pleaded guilty on Friday to four criminal counts stemming from after an alleged attack on Broward County jail guard Sgt. Raymond Beltran in November of that year.

Cruz is expected to plead guilty to the shootings on Wednesday at 9 a.m. EDT.

Cruz’s status hearing in Broward County Circuit Court before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was scheduled abruptly on Thursday.

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz holds his head in court during day two of jury selection in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, on four criminal counts stemming from his alleged attack on a Broward jail guard in November 2018. 
(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The guilty plea avoids a lengthy trial and Cruz will still face a jury to determine whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison, according to the report.

“We have to refer all of your questions to the defense,” the Broward County state attorney’s office said Thursday night. “There have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution. If he pleads guilty, there would still be a penalty phase.”

Cruz was arrested on Valentine’s Day 2018 about an hour after the attack with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

The shootings led to nationwide protests against gun violence, including the “March for Our Lives,” in addition to new gun control legislation.

His lawyers have previously offered to plead guilty in exchange for a guaranteed sentence of life in prison. However, state prosecutors have been dogged in their pursuit of the death penalty. 

A large part of the penalty phase would likely focus on Cruz’s mental condition at the time of the killings.

“There is very little doubt he murdered my beautiful daughter, Gina, or the 16 other victims,” Tony Montalto, president of the Stand With Parkland group that represents the families of the victims, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “There is very little doubt he shot the other 17 people and terrorized all the other students at the school. We just hope the system gives him justice.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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