Broward County Sheriff's Office
Nikolas Cruz

Parkland, Fla., high school shooter pleads guilty to 17 counts of murder

Oct. 20, 2021
Nikolas Cruz, now 23, was a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 when he opened fire at the Broward County school and killed 14 students and three staff members.

Nikolas Cruz has pleaded guilty to murder in the 2018 high school massacre in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.

The Associated Press reports that Cruz, 23, entered his pleas Wednesday morning in a courtroom hearing attended by a dozen relatives of victims.

He was charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for those wounded in the Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, just outside Fort Lauderdale.

A penalty trial will determine if Cruz will receive a sentence of death or life in prison without parole.

In the courtroom, Cruz apologized, saying, “I’m very sorry for what I did. ... I can’t live with myself sometimes.” 

Several parents and other relatives of victims broke down in tears while listening to the court proceedings via a Zoom call.

The guilty pleas set the stage for a penalty trial in which 12 jurors will determine whether Cruz should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer plans to screen thousands of prospective jurors. Hearings are scheduled throughout November and December, with a goal to start testimony in January.

Cruz killed 14 students and three staff members on Valentine’s Day 2018 during a seven-minute rampage through a three-story building at Stoneman Douglas, investigators said. They said he shot victims in the hallways and in classrooms with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

Cruz had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas a year earlier after a history of threatening, frightening, unusual and sometimes violent behavior that dated back to preschool.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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