By: Alyssa Rice
On the afternoon of February 14th, 2018 in Parkland, Florida, nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz committed one of the nation’s deadliest shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. The tragedy occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is in the Miami metropolitan area. According to a police arrest report, Cruz confessed that he “’began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on school grounds.’” Cruz carried in a black duffel bag which was filled with “loaded magazines”. He eventually “discarded the rifle, a vest, and ammunition in a stairwell” and blended in with students that were exiting the building. In the six minutes that the shooting lasted, there were seventeen casualties.
The judge held Cruz without bond on seventeen counts of premeditated murder. The suspect has also been put on suicide watch at Broward County jail, where he is currently residing. Melissa McNeill, Cruz’s public defender said, “’He’s sad. He’s mournful. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he’s just a broken human being.’” Mr. Weekes, chief assistant public defender, said that Cruz’s lawyers were still “trying to piece together the details of Mr. Cruz’s life”. Mental illness is a possibility of a defense, as “Mr. Cruz has a ‘significant’ history of mental illness…and is possibly autistic or has a learning disability”.
A large crowd gathered at Pine Trails Park for a vigil to honor the victims. The victim’s ages ranged from fourteen to forty-nine-years old, consisting of fourteen students and three faculty members. A well-liked and popular football coach, Aaron Feis, also passed away on Wednesday, laying his life on the line by shielding a child’s body from the shooter. He was “someone who looked out for students who got in trouble, those who were struggling, those without fathers at home.” The football team gathered nearby the vigil “forming a circle and locking hands” to commemorate their beloved coach. Wrestling coach and athletic director Chris Hixon were fatally injured after trying to help students at the scene of the shooting. Another faculty member, Scott Beigel, a geography teacher, was shot after unlocking a door to a classroom to allow children to hide from the shooter.
Including the Parkland shooting, “three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history have come in the last five months.” The superintendent of the Parkland school district, Robert W. Runcie, proclaimed, “’Now is the time for the country to have a real conversation on sensible gun controls in this country.’” Some mourners and survivors even called out for social change and reform from the executive branch. Lori Alhadeff, the mother of fourteen-year-old Alyssa who was killed in the shooting, called on President Trump, demanding, “get these guns out of the hands of these young kids and get these guns off the streets.” President Trump declared that he is planning on visiting Parkland to work with the nation’s governors “’to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.’”