Nikolas Cruz strolled to McDonald's after murdering 17, court is told

REVEALED: Nikolas Cruz casually strolled to McDonald’s after murdering 17 at Parkland school and then asked brother of girl he’d just shot and wounded for ride home, sentencing hearing is told

  • Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing hearing continued on Thursday in South Florida
  • A court heard that Cruz sought a ride home with John Wilford, a brother of one of the students wounded, just 25 minutes after the shooting
  • The court watched footage of Cruz casually entering a Subway and ordering a frozen drink before attempting to mingle with other evacuated students
  • Wilford’s sister, Maddy, survived the shooting after being shot three times in the arms and torso by Cruz

Surveillance footage played at Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing hearing on Thursday showed him grabbing a drink at a Subway and then heading to a McDonald’s where he chatted with the brother of one of his victims. 

That all occurred around 25 minutes after he murdered 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. 

The gunman showed no signs of stress or nervousness in the video. Subway manager Carlos Rugeles testified that Cruz ordered a cherry and blue raspberry Icee.

During the conversation with his victim’s brother, John Wilford, who testified Thursday, Cruz sought a ride home, despite the pair never having met before.

Wilford denied the shooter’s request telling the court: ‘He was pretty insistent on it. I wasn’t really thinking much of it. I just wanted to get home and my sister wasn’t answering her phone.’ 

He added: ‘Everyone was kind of panicked, not knowing what was going on. I was trying to get a hold of my sister and she wasn’t picking up, so I called my mother to meet her at McDonald’s.’ 

Little did Wilford know at the time but his sister Maddie, then 18, had just been shot three times in the arm and torso by Cruz. 

While sitting with Cruz in the fast food restaurant, Wilford told the court that he tried to make small talk. 

‘I told him, `This is so chaotic, it´s crazy with all these helicopters and squad cars. What do you think this could be?” Wilford recalled. ‘He didn’t say much. He had his head down.’

Gunman Nikolas Cruz, shown on the right, acted casually as he wandered into a McDonald’s restaurant and mingled with students who had been evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 

Cruz, pictured left, sat down with fellow student John Wilford. Wilford testified in court today that Cruz almost begged him for a ride home but he refused because of a ‘gut feeling’ 

Wilford, pictured on the right, said that during his encounter with Cruz, who he never met before, he attempted to make small talk but the gunman just kept his head down and said little

Wilford, pictured here during today’s court hearing, had been attempting to contact his sister while sitting across from Cruz. Little did he know that his sister had just been shot four times by Cruz

Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler, Nikolas Cruz, sentence mitigation specialist Kate O’Shea, and capital defense attorney Casey Secor stand as the jury enters the courtroom

Cruz’s lawyers attempted to have Thursday’s witnesses thrown out arguing that his behavior following the shooting was irrelevant

Cruz walked away after Wilford left with his mother.

He was arrested about a half-hour later by Michael Leonard, an officer with the neighboring Coconut Creek Police Department. 

After the shooting, Cruz fled the building, according to earlier testimony, dressed in a burgundy shirt from the Stoneman Douglas Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps – he had been a member when he attended the school – and a New York City Police Department cap.

The former Stoneman Douglas student blended in with students who were evacuating campus and went to a nearby Walmart, where security video shows that 25 minutes after he stopped shooting he turned into the Subway sandwich shop inside the entrance.

Cruz’s lawyers objected to the testimony of Wilford and Rugeles prior to their appearances in court arguing that the shooter’s behavior in the aftermath was irrelevant. 

Prosecutors said that it spoke to his remorselessness, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer agreed. 

Officer Leonard testified he was driving through neighborhoods looking for anyone matching the shooter’s description.

The officer was 3 miles from the school and about to drive back toward it when he spotted Cruz walking on a residential street. He said he stopped and Cruz looked at him. He pulled his gun and ordered Cruz to the ground. Cruz complied.

A search found $350 in Cruz’s pocket.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder. The jury must only decide if he should be sentenced to death or life without parole for the nation´s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury.

Maddy Wilford said in an interview that she doesn’t remember the time in between leaving class and waking up in a hospital bed. She said: ‘I was blacked out for most of it’

Wilford said in 2019: ”I’m not really into the gun-activist thing. I’m more focusing on the mental side of it, because the people that shoot up schools are obviously going through something’

In February 2019, John and Maddy Wilford were interviewed about the fateful day in Parkland for Rolling Stone. 

John Wilford mentioned that he encountered Cruz in a mall following the shooting but did not elaborate. 

While Maddy told the magazine that she doesn’t remember the time in between leaving class and waking up in a hospital bed. She said: ‘I was blacked out for most of it.’ 

Maddy went on to say about some of her former classmates activism following the shooting: ‘I’m not really into the gun-activist thing. I’m more focusing on the mental side of it, because the people that shoot up schools are obviously going through something.’  

Nine other gunmen who killed at least 17 people died during or immediately after their shootings, either by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 slaying of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

When jurors eventually get the case, probably in October or November, they will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend capital punishment.

For each death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life. The jurors are told that to vote for death, the prosecution´s aggravating circumstances for that victim must, in their judgment, “outweigh” the defense´s mitigators. A juror can also vote for life out of mercy for Cruz. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they are capable of voting for either sentence.

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