Florida Gunman Pleads Guilty To 17 Counts Of Murder, Could Face Death Penalty

(Photo by Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder for the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty with his lawyers seeking to spare him the death penalty. A jury is set to decide at a later time what his sentence will be, according to CBS News.

Cruz reportedly told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he was feeling anxious. Scherer then asked how Cruz would plead to each of the murders, with Cruz responding “guilty” each time, according to the report. (RELATED: ‘Gun Control Laws Didn’t Fail My Daughter, People Did,’ Says Father Of Parkland Shooting Victim)

Fred Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old Jaime who was murdered during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School told CBS News the past three years have been “torture.”

“I dreamt every day of walking my daughter down the aisle, and because of what this murderer did I now live every day knowing I won’t get to do that,” he reportedly said, noting he wants Cruz to face the death penalty.

“Today we saw a cold and calculating killer confess to the murder of my daughter Gina and 16 other innocent victims at their school,” Tony Montalto said during the hearing, according to The Associated Press (AP). Gina was sitting in her classroom when Cruz opened fire, striking her multiple times. “His guilty pleas are the first step in the judicial process but there is no change for my family. Our bright, beautiful, and beloved daughter Gina is gone while her killer still enjoys the blessing of life in prison.”

Cruz issued an apology during his hearing, according to CBS News.

“I’m very sorry for what I did … I can’t live with myself sometimes.”

Twelve jurors will decide whether to sentence Cruz to life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Jury selection is set to begin Jan. 4, according to the AP.

Gena Hoyer, whose son Luke, 15, was killed in the shooting said Cruz “does not deserve life in prison,” according to the AP.

Survivor Anthony Borges said he accepted Cruz’s apology but said it was not his decision to decide Cruz’ fate.

“He made a decision to shoot the school,” Borges said, according to the AP. “I am not God to make the decision to kill him or not. That’s not my decision. My decision is to be a better person and to change the world for every kid.”

Cruz opened fire in 2018, killing 14 students and three staff members in a seven-minute shooting spree using an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.  Bodycam footage released more than a year after the shooting revealed Cruz told arresting officers he heard “demons.”

“What’s going on today, bro?” one officer asked Cruz.

“Demons man,” Cruz responded, adding he heard “voices.”