Alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty to the first-degree murder of 17 people at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Lawyers for the 23-year-old suspect said Friday that their client would take responsibility for the February 2018 massacre and move on to the penalty phase of his legal battle. A jury, which will begin its selection process in November, will decide whether Cruz receives a life sentence without parole or the death penalty. That hearing is likely to begin in early 2022.


The announcement that Cruz would plead guilty to fatally shooting 14 students and three adults came as he was preparing to go to trial next week for attacking a Broward County corrections officer in November 2018.

Cruz’s team had previously said they would render a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors balked at that offer. The pandemic has slowed Cruz’s trial.

Former Florida prosecutor David Weinstein said Cruz’s guilty plea may be an attempt to show jurors that he is taking responsibility for his actions and is remorseful. It would also spare jurors from repeatedly viewing graphic security videos that could influence their thinking. Weinstein is not involved in Cruz’s case.


Mitch and Annika Dworet, who had one son killed and another injured in the shooting, were the only parents of victims to attend the hearing. Annika said “it’s time” for justice to be served.

“We would like to see him suffer,” she said.

Cruz had been a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas before being expelled roughly a year before the attack for disciplinary reasons. His mother died four months before his alleged rampage, at which time Cruz began staying with friends. His baggage included 10 guns.

The FBI received a warning a month before the shooting from someone concerned Cruz was capable of killing people. That information was not forwarded to the agents in South Florida. Cruz made videos in 2018 stating he was going to become a school shooter. On Valentine’s Day of that year, at the age of 19, he made good on his warning.

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