Nikolas Cruz Formally Charged With 17 Counts of Murder, Could Face Death Penalty

Nikolas Cruz has been formally charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder for the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Associated Press reports.

A grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida indicted Cruz Wednesday on the first-degree murder charges and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The 19-year-old confessed to the Valentine's Day shooting shortly after he was arrested near the scene. If convicted Cruz could face the death penalty in the state of Florida.

Cruz's public defender has said that his client will plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table. That means the shooter would spend the rest of his life in prison. The Broward County state attorney has reportedly not reached a decision on the death penalty or other punishment options.

In addition, Cruz was also charged with 17 counts of attempted murder. The former student brought an AR-15 assault rifle into Stoneman Douglas High and killed 17 people, while 16 more were wounded.

The grand jury has heard testimony from eye witnesses and victims in the case. On Wednesday, they also heard from the Snead family, who took Cruz in for several months leading up to the attack. Cruz's mother passed away in November of 2017, at which point he spent almost a month staying with her friend. However, he eventually moved in with his friend's family, and the Sneads were reportedly floored to find out that their guest was behind the school shooting.

Both James and Kimberly Snead reportedly spent about half an hour testifying in closed-door sessions with the grand jury. Their attorney, Jim Lewis, told reporters that they answered all the questions asked of them, and they were fully cooperative. Their testimony matched their appearances on the news in the wake of the shooting, where they said that Cruz had fooled them into thinking he was harmless.


Cruz has been held in solitary confinement since the shooting took place. The Broward County Sheriff's Office has released a report of police officers' observations of Cruz between Feb. 17 and Feb. 24. The confessed murderer has reportedly been cooperative, but anti-social. Police say he avoids eye contact and "often sits with a blank stare."

Cruz has had visits from his lawyers, and has been "awkward" before and after those interruptions in his solitude. He was also granted one "family visit," according to the account. Cruz reportedly asked police for a Bible to read.