Parkland school shooter pleads guilty to murder

A Florida man has pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people in a 2018 mass shooting at a high school campus in Parkland, Florida.

Nikolas Cruz, 23, also pleaded guilty to 17 counts of attempted murder for those he injured in the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

He faces the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison.

One of the deadliest school shootings in US history, the incident became a rallying cry for gun control activists.

Mr Cruz was 19-years-old when he shot dead 14 students and three employees with an AR-15 rifle at his former school. Another 17 people were wounded.

The case will now head to a penalty trial in which jurors must determine whether Mr Cruz is spared the death penalty to face life without parole.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer has said she hopes that the case – for which thousands of jurors will have to be screened – can begin in January.

In court on Wednesday, Judge Scherer asked Mr Cruz how he pleaded to each murder.

Following the plea, Mr Cruz tearfully addressed the judge and the victims’ families.

“I am very sorry for what I did and have to live with it every day,” he said. “If I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to help others.”

Mr Cruz added that he has “nightmares” about his crime and “can’t live with” himself.

He also said that he believes that the US would “do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana”.

Lawyers representing Mr Cruz had repeatedly said that he would plead guilty if the death penalty was not considered.

Last week, his attorney, David Wheeler, told the judge that Mr Cruz’s lawyers were asking the court to impose 17 consecutive life sentences for the massacre.

The offer had been rejected by prosecutors, who in earlier court documents said they would seek his execution and prove that the crime “was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel”.

Last week, Mr Cruz pleaded guilty to a separate charge of attempted aggravated battery and three other felony charges stemming from an attack on a jail guard nine months after the shooting.

On Wednesday, Judge Scherer sentenced Mr Cruz to 26 years in prison for the jailhouse assault. -BBC

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