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Nikolas Cruz trial hears officer testimony about finding victims’ bodies – live

Nikolas Cruz trial hears officer testimony about finding victims’ bodies - live
Deadliest mass shooting in US history ever to make it to trial goes before a jury

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Parkland teacher tells court of moment students took cover in 2018 shooting

Nikolas Cruz, the man convicted of shooting dead 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February 2018, is facing the penalty phase of the trial for his crimes.

A former student at the school, Cruz was 19 when he went on a shooting spree in what proved to be one of the deadliest school massacres in US history. He subsequently surrendered to police and pleaded guilty to 17 charges of first-degree murder and 17 of attempted murder.

Cruz was a member of the school’s air rifle team who had been expelled over his disciplinary record. He had arrived at the school with a legally purchased AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and murdered 14 students and three staff members, injuring 17 more. The shooting sparked a nationwide protest movement demanding tighter gun control measures.

While prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Cruz, his attorneys are hoping for a life term.

WARNING – Graphic content: This blog contains testimony, descriptions, and audio content relating to the Parkland shooting.

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Explained: What happened during the Parkland massacre

As the second week of Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing trial looms, The Independent’s Rachel Sharp explains what led up to the 2018 massacre and what’s happened since:

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ICYMI: Day five features harrowing testimony from law enforcement

Day five of Cruz’s sentencing hearing was chock full of heartbreaking testimony from law enforcement officers who responded to the scene of the massacre.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp recaps what they said:

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Parkland survivor thrown out of House gun control meeting

As Cruz’s sentencing hearing unfolded in Florida, a survivor of the shooting caused a stir in Washington, DC, by interrupting a House meeting on gun control.

David Hogg, a prominent gun safety advocate, was in the gallery of the meeting as Republican Rep Andy Biggs claimed that residents in his state of Arizona need assault weapons to defend themselves against the “invasion” of immigrants.

As he made his comments, Mr Hogg rose to his feet and passionately interrupted proceedings telling him that his claims echoed comments made by several mass killers.

“You’re reiterating the points of mass shooters in your manifesto!” he shouted.

“The shooter in my high school: antiSemitic, anti-Black and racist. The shooter in El Paso described it as an invasion.”

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp reports:

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Victim’s brother recounts sitting with Cruz at McDonald’s

John Wilford, whose sister was killed in the massacre, testified on Thursday about how Cruz came to sit down next to him at McDonald’s.

Mr Wilford said that he had no idea at the time that the man sitting with him was the person responsible for carrying out the horrific mass shooting that left 17 dead.

He said that he had never met Cruz before and didn’t think too much about him sitting there at the time as he was too busy worrying about his sister.

“I didn’t think much of it as I was panicked,” he said.

Mr Wilford said he assumed Cruz was also a student at the school because he was wearing a Douglas JROTC shirt.

He said he started speaking to Cruz about what had happened saying “this is so chaotic” and asking him “what do you think this could be”.

Cruz “didn’t really say much” and just sat with his “head down”, he said.

Parkland school shooting: Footage shows Nikolas Cruz in McDonald’s after attack
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Chilling surveillance video shows Cruz at McDonald’s after shooting

On day four of Cruz’s sentencing trial, jurors were shown surveillance footage of the Cruz in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February 2018.

After murdering 17 innocent students and staff and wounding dozens more, Cruz fled the school grounds by hiding in plain sight among the terrified students.

He then casually walked to a nearby Subway for a drink and then onto a McDonald’s, where – unbeknown to both at the time – he sat directly opposite the brother of one of the innocent students he had just shot.

Surveillance footage from inside the McDonald’s captured the encounter between Cruz and John Wilford inside the fast food joint around 30 minutes after the mass shooting.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp reports:

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Sergeant tells of gravely wounded student reaching for help

Also on Friday, Broward Sheriff’s Sgt Richard Van Der Eems testified about how he found a surviving victim amid the chaos, with the gravely injured student desperately trying to get the attention of rescuers.

He told the court that he entered the building through the east side and saw “a child dead on the ground and smoke and dust in the air” on the first floor.

Sgt Van Der Eems and other law enforcement officers cleared survivors out of one of the rooms and he then went up the stairs to the third floor.

“We looked down the halfway and there was a child all the way at the other end,” he said.

“He was trying to raise his hand up and he was trying to say something.

“But he kept trying to raise his hand up so that we could see he was alive.”

He said that he and his fellow officers grabbed the boy – identified as Anthony Borges – and took him to a medic.

When he went back, he found the bodies of two more victims – 14-year-old Cara Loughran and 18-year-old Meadow Pollack inside the alcove of the bathroom doorway.

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Detective describes finding victims’ bodies

Much of the heartbreaking testimony on the fifth day of Cruz’s sentencing trial came from Detective David Alfin, who arrived at the school about 20 minutes after the shooting began.

After entering the freshman building where the shooting took place, he headed up to the third floor with some fellow officers.

When they entered the hallway from the west side, he testified that he saw the gunman’s tactical vest and AR-15 rifle placed on top of it.

Cruz had abandoned his weapon at the scene and then fled the school – hiding in plain sight among terrified students evacuating the campus.

Detective Alfin testified that he then saw the body of freshman student Jaime Guttenberg to his left.

The officer described how he checked Jaime’s pulse and vital signs but discovered she was already dead.

Jaime’s father Fred Guttenberg was seen wiping tears from his eyes and bowing his head as he sat in the public gallery listening to the officer’s testimony about his daughter.

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Day five recap: Harrowing testimony as officers describe finding bodies and pathologist details gunshot wounds

Harrowing testimony was heard in court on Friday as police officers described finding the bodies of innocent students and staff who had been slaughtered moments earlier in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The sentencing trial for mass killer Nikolas Cruz began on Monday with prosecutors calling survivors and witnesses to the stand throughout the week as the jury weighs whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison.

Day five of the trial focused on the first-hand accounts of some of the first law enforcement officers who arrived on the scene of the massacre in Parkland, Florida, back on 14 February 2018 as well as the graphic autopsy findings of some of the victims.

Detective David Alfin from Coral Springs Police Department recounted the moments when he found the bodies of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg and 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver inside the school building.

The officer, who testified that he believes he was the first officer to reach the third floor hallway, spoke of the sobering moment that he then had to move the boy’s lifeless body.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:

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Widow of Parkland hero opens up about trauma

Last Thursday, Debbi Hixon should have been celebrating her 32nd wedding anniversary with her husband.

Instead, she was preparing herself to come face to face with his killer in court.

On 14 February 2018, Chris Hixon was murdered along with 16 other people in the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

More than four years later, Nikolas Cruz is finally in court for his sentencing hearing where a jury will decide if he should face life in prison or death for the heinous killings.

Debbi tells The Independent how she hopes the trial will finally enable her family to start to grieve.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp reports:

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David Hogg thrown out of House gun meeting

Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg was thrown out of a House Judiciary Committee meeting about gun control on Wednesday after he confronted a GOP lawmaker about “reiterating the points of mass shooters”.

Mr Hogg, a prominent gun safety advocate, was in the gallery of the meeting as Republican Rep Andy Biggs claimed that residents in his state of Arizona need assault weapons to defend themselves against the “invasion” of immigrants.

As he made his comments, Mr Hogg rose to his feet and passionately interrupted proceedings telling him that his claims echoed comments made by several mass killers.

“You’re reiterating the points of mass shooters in your manifesto!” he shouted.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story: