Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz is willing to plead guilty if it means he won’t face the death penalty, his top public defender said on Friday.
Cruz, 19, is accused of premeditated murder after admitting he gunned down 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday.
Aside from a life without parole sentence, the shooter also wants to spare the community from reliving details of the tragedy in a trial, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said, CNN reported.
The lawyer added there’s no question Cruz was the gunman, and that no one would benefit from ‘a circus trial’.
‘There is only one question: Should this young man live or should he die by execution?’ Finkelstein asked, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The decision to spare Cruz from the death penalty has to be reached by both the defense and prosecution teams.
State Attorney Michael J. Satz said on Saturday that although ‘certainly this is the type of case the death penalty was designed for,’ now is the time ‘to let the families grieve and bury their children and loved ones,’ and they will announce the prosecution’s position at the appropriate time.
The shooter, who is being held without bond, will next appear in court on Monday.
Authorities missed multiple red flags before Cruz, a deeply troubled ‘loner’ who was expelled last year for ‘fighting over his ex-girlfriend’, opened fire on his high school.
The first came back in September when they were alerted to a comment made by YouTube user ‘Nikolas Cruz’ proclaiming his desire to be a ‘professional school shooter.’
At the same time he was posting photos to his public social media account which showed off an arsenal of weapons, including multiple semi-automatic guns.
All this, along with the fact that he had know mental health struggles and three school expulsions, was not enough to land Cruz on the FBI’s radar.
YouTube vlogger Ben Bennight alerted the FBI to a comment shared by Cruz on one of his videos back in September, when the boy wrote: ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter.’
Bennight revealed that the FBI was quick to respond to the concerning statement, arriving at his office the very next day to find out if he knew anything about the young man.
That was after he called a local field agent, revealing that his initial attempts to send in a screengrab of the comment failed when the email address he found listed on the federal agency’s website came back with a domain error saying that it did not exist.
He finally heard back from the FBI on Wednesday, when they called with some additional questions after 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
On Thursday, Special Agent Rob Laskey revealed that the the agency was unable to learn anything about the person who posted the comment.
‘No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment,’ said Laskey.
‘The FBI conducted data reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.’
Students who knew Cruz have also been speaking out, including one young man who wrote: ‘Nick attacked one of my friends once. He brought shotgun shells to school and made many threats against others. He had an insta full of pictures of dead animals that he killed.’
The teen, who wrote that his parents had prohibited him from giving interviews, added: ‘Mental illness needs to be recognized or things like this happen. People i know are f***ing dead.’
Cruz was not attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time of the massacre, having been expelled for disciplinary reasons during the 2016-17 school year.
It was at least the third time that Cruz had been forced to leave a learning institution, and came at a particularly difficult time in his life.
Cruz, who has a younger brother Zachary, lost his mother Lynda back in November as a result of complications from the flu.
The 68-year-old mother-of-two developed a case of pneumonia shortly after checking herself in to receive treatment for the seasonal sickness.
His father Roger died of a heart attack back in 2005, just a few years after he and wife Lynda adopted Nikolas and his brother Zachary.