Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty For Florida High School Shooter

March 14, 2018
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Prosecutors have filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people in a Florida school shooting on Valentine’s Day.

~ Cruz has been scheduled for a formal arraignment Wednesday on a 34-count indictment. Cruz, who walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 and opened fire, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder as well as 17 counts of attempted murder.

Cruz’s attorney previously said that the 19-year-old would plead guilty if prosecutors did not pursue the death penalty. Tuesday’s notice of intent does not necessarily mean a plea deal will not be reached.

The only other penalty option for Cruz is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Details surrounding Cruz’s background has emerged in the weeks after the deadly shooting, including his history of violent behavior in school.

Jail records which have released by Broward Sheriff’s Office detailed the 19-year-old’s behavior in the first few days behind bars.

He was observed “lying on his back staring at the ceiling” and avoiding eye contact. Cruz appeared “restless” and in “deep thought” other times.

At a certain point, Cruz appeared to “break out in laughter both during and immediately following his professional visit” with his attorney. He also requested a Bible on Feb. 24, 10 days after the massacre.

A family source has also detailed to Fox News Cruz’s past behavioral problems.

His adoptive mother, who died in November of 2017 from pneumonia, endured many years of torment because of her children’s outbursts. In one instance, Cruz hit his mother with a vacuum hose when she confiscated his Xbox, according to the family source.

He reportedly also punched his mother in the jaw when she refused to stop at a store Cruz wanted.

Cruz struggled at school, too. The school therapist and psychiatrist at Cross Creek, a school in Pompano Beach that specializes in students with behavioral and emotional disorders, wrote in a letter before summer 2014 that they were concerned about Cruz’s “aggressive and destructive” behavior at home.

“At home, he continues to be aggressive and destructive with minimal provocation,” the letter stated, according to files obtained by the Miami Herald. “For instance, he destroyed his television after losing a video game that he was playing. Nikolas has a hatchet that he uses to chop up a dead tree in his backyard. Mom has not been able to locate that hatchet as of lately.”

Cruz was eventually able to transition out of the school after he showed “tremendous progress” with his behavior. The began attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School full-time in January 2016 until he transferred out in February 2017.

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, earlier said there were a slew of warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far.

“Because that’s what this case is about. Not, did he do it? Not, should he go free? Should he live or should he die,” Finkelstein told The Associated Press.

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