US: Parkland mass shooting jurors shown graphic victims' photos

Nikolas Cruz, killer of the Parkland high school, should he be sentenced to death?

 Nikolas Cruz, killer of the Parkland high school, should he be sentenced to death? The hearings to determine if Nikolas Cruz, killer of the Parkland high school, must be sentenced to death, began on Monday in Florida. © Carline Jean/AP/SIPA “My first name is NIK. I will become the next killer of the high school of the year 2018. My goal is to kill at least 20 people with an AR-15. It's going to be a big event and when you go to me to the information, you will know who I am. You will all die ... I can't wait.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday showed jurors photos of the horrific damage the bullets fired by Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz's AR-15 rifle did to some of his 17 victims, causing extensive wounds to their heads, bodies and limbs.

Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Richard Van Der Eems describes the scene he encountered at the school after the mass shooting as he testifies during the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Richard Van Der Eems describes the scene he encountered at the school after the mass shooting as he testifies during the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The jury also saw gruesome crime scene photos showing victims who died in their classrooms at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, some falling on top of each other. It was an unusually graphic display in a U.S. courtroom as most of the nation's mass shootings never reach trial because the killer dies during or immediately after the attack.

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is led into the courtroom during the penalty phase of his trial, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is led into the courtroom during the penalty phase of his trial, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The seven-man, five-woman jury and 10 alternates showed little emotion as the photos from the Parkland school were displayed on video monitors inside the jury box. They were not shown in the gallery, where several parents sat, but were shown to reporters after the hearing.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder, so the jury will only decide if he will be sentenced to death or life without parole.

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Prosecutors are showing the photos because they believe their graphic and horrific detail demonstrates the heinous, depraved and cruel nature of Cruz's actions. The defense unsuccessfully objected to their showing, arguing that they are only meant to inflame jurors' emotions.

Max Schachter, who's son Alex was killed in the Parkland, Fla., shooting, reenters the courtroom after a break in the penalty phase of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Max Schachter, who's son Alex was killed in the Parkland, Fla., shooting, reenters the courtroom after a break in the penalty phase of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

Dr. Iouri Boiko, the medical examiner who did the four autopsies shown Friday, said the biggest and most gruesome wounds appeared where high-speed bullets fired by Cruz's semi-automatic rifle exited the body. One girl had her head blown open, while another had the front of her right shoulder blade missing. Another was missing most of a forearm and bicep from three wounds. The Associated Press is not naming specific victims' autopsy findings to protect their families' privacy.

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Tom Hoyer, center, and Fred Gutenberg, right, parents of victims, talk during the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Tom Hoyer, center, and Fred Gutenberg, right, parents of victims, talk during the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Boiko said one girl would have died from a bullet that grazed the top of her head as the shock wave fractured her skull, causing extensive brain damage. She also suffered a fatal wound through her chest. Most of victims were shot multiple times.

Photos of bodies inside classrooms included one boy bent backward over his seat, his body almost forming a U-shape. Blood pooled beneath him.

Some victims' parents held their heads as they listened to the doctor's descriptions, while one family walked out.

The autopsies and Friday's earlier testimony from police officers who charged into the building minutes after the shooting capped an already emotional and traumatic first week of the trial, which is expected to last four months. It included testimony from teachers and students who saw a normal Valentine's Day suddenly ravaged by a gunman who stalked a three-story classroom building, firing down hallways and into classrooms for about seven minutes.

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It also included testimony and video of Cruz's casual attitude as he visited a sandwich shop and McDonald's just minutes after fleeing the campus before he was arrested.

Earlier Friday, Broward County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Van Der Eems testified that when he entered the building about 10 minutes after the shooting began, he “observed a child dead on the ground on the left and there was smoke and dust in the air.”

Members of the defense and prosecution confer during the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Members of the defense and prosecution confer during the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Worried that the shooter might still be in the building, he said he pointed his gun to provide cover as other officers led students and teachers out of the building and carried out the wounded. They didn't know that Cruz had fled the building about three minutes earlier.

Relatives and family members of those injured or killed arrive for the penalty phase trial for convicted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Relatives and family members of those injured or killed arrive for the penalty phase trial for convicted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

Van Der Eems and other officers entered the building immediately after arriving, about 10 minutes after the shooting began. Then-Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, the school's security officer, is charged with child neglect for staying outside while Cruz continued shooting. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial early next year. Other deputies were disciplined for failing to go into the building when they arrived.

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, left, talks to sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea during the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Friday, July 22, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) © Provided by Associated Press Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, left, talks to sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea during the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Friday, July 22, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Police in Uvalde, Texas, are being criticized for waiting more than an hour before confronting a gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in May.

Coral Springs Capt. Nicholas Mazzei said that as he ran to the building, he found the body of assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who was shot trying to stop Cruz.

“I checked him for vitals, realized he was deceased," Mazzei said. He said he then went inside and found athletic director Christopher Hixon, who later died of wounds he received while confronting Cruz. He said they talked, but prosecutors did not ask what was said.

Coral Springs Detective David Alfin said he climbed the stairs to the third-floor landing, where he found Cruz's rifle and vest next to the body of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg.

“I checked her vital signs for breath and pulse and I found none,” he said, adding that he checked two or three times. “We held there for a moment and ... heard a voice from the hallway.”

He, Van Der Eems and others went to the third floor, where they found other bodies and a severely wounded Anthony Borges, who was lying in the middle of the hallway, raising his hand and trying to yell to get their attention.

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Nine U.S. gunmen besides Cruz who have killed at least 17 people died during or immediately after their shootings, either by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 slaying of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler prepares for the day in the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler prepares for the day in the penalty phase trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

When jurors eventually get the case, probably in October or November, they will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend capital punishment.

For each death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life. The jurors are told that to vote for death, the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances for that victim must, in their judgment, “outweigh” the defense’s mitigators. A juror can also vote for life out of mercy for Cruz. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they are capable of voting for either sentence.

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Associated Press reporter Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.

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