Florida Shooting Latest: Suspect makes second court appearance

19-year-old Nikolas Cruz faces 17 counts of first-degree murder

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Here's the latest on the deadly Florida high school shooting (all times local):

3:25 p.m.

A prominent psychiatrist is cautioning survivors that they may want to limit the funeral services they attend to close friends after 17 people were fatally gunned down at a Florida high school last week.

Dr. Francisco Cruz, lead psychiatrist at Ketamine Health Centers, says those survivors shouldn't feel obligated to attend all 17 funerals. He also says overexposure to news coverage and social media posts about the shooting may be more harmful than attending a series of funerals.

Cruz says going through the "funeral process" can help people get through tough times. He says the ideal situation is to confront trauma "head on with the support" and to seek out counselors, pastors or others as needed.

2:30 p.m.

More than 1,500 mourners have thronged a church for the funeral of 14-year-old student Alaina Petty, one of the 17 people killed in last week's shooting rampage at a Florida high school.

Petty was a freshman and one of 17 people killed in Wednesday's attack at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Family members spoke at Monday's funeral about how the teen had enthusiastically joined fellow Mormon youth for cleanup efforts after Hurricane Irma struck Florida in September. Her father, Ryan Petty, also spoke about the support the victims' families have received from their church, the community and others worldwide.

The funeral was held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Coral Springs, not far from the school that Alaina Petty attended.

1:30 p.m.

Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has appeared in court for a procedural hearing.

Cruz said nothing at Monday's hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, the first he attended in person and not via teleconference from jail. He kept his head down and did not appear to make eye contact with the judge or others in the courtroom, though he responded briefly to someone on the defense team at the end of the hearing.

The hearing concerned the rules going forward of how documents would be sealed. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she was in favor of openness whenever possible.

Cruz is charged with killing 17 people and wounding many others in Wednesday's shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which he once attended. His lawyers have said he will plead guilty if prosecutors agree not to pursue the death penalty. No decision has been made on that.

7:50 a.m.

The couple who took in the Florida school shooting suspect after his mother died says he told them he was sorry after the shooting.

Speaking Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” James and Kimberly Snead said they’ve only seen Nikolas Cruz once since the shooting that killed 17 when they briefly saw him at the police station.

Kimberly Snead says she yelled at him and “really wanted to strangle him more than anything.” The couple says Cruz told them he was sorry.

The Sneads also said the person who’s been shown to the world since the shootings isn’t the person they knew when he lived with them. They said Cruz was very polite and followed all their rules.

Cruz is facing 17 counts of murder in the Wednesday afternoon shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

12:50 a.m.

Student survivors of the deadly Florida school shooting who hope to become the face of a revived gun control movement are on a potential collision course with President Donald Trump.

Several of the students have criticized the president, whose election was strongly supported by the National Rifle Association and who ran on a platform opposing gun control.

Trump spent the weekend in South Florida, only an hour’s drive from Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were fatally shot last week. His only mentions of the massacre came in tweets Saturday contending the FBI was too focused on the Russia investigation to respond to warnings about the alleged shooter and mocking Democrats for failing to pass gun control.


(Original Story)

The evidence against the Florida school shooting suspect is so overwhelming, the only question left for the courts if he is convicted is whether he will be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.

The fate of 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who faces 17 counts of first-degree murder in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, will depend on his mental state and the wishes of the victims’ families, which have a say in how the prosecution proceeds.

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, said there were so many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent that the death penalty might be going too far. Finkelstein said Cruz would likely plead guilty if prosecutors opt not to seek the death penalty.

“Because that’s what this case is about. Not, did he do it? Not, should he go free? Should he live or should he die,” Finkelstein said. “He will never see the light of day again, nor should he. But I know personally I am very upset and angry that we all failed to spot a problem and do anything as a result.”

Michael J. Satz, the state attorney for Broward County, said Saturday in an email that, “This certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for.” He called the slayings “absolutely horrific and tragic.” However, he also said his office is working with law enforcement and will announce later what penalty it plans to seek.

The prosecution will likely take years. The sheriff’s office said Cruz confessed, and they have his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, ammunition clips and video from the school. The FBI also said Friday it had gotten a call from someone close to Cruz who expressed concern that he had “a desire to kill people” and “the potential” to conduct a school shooting.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement that the information was not properly investigated and promised to get to the bottom of it.

A major issue for the courts will be Cruz’s mental state. Officials have said he underwent unspecified treatment at a mental facility but quit after his mother died in November. His father had died some years earlier. Without any living parents, he was taken in by a local family.

Cruz’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill, told reporters after Cruz’s initial court appearance that he had become unmoored from society and had no support network to lean on.

“When your brain is not fully developed, you don’t know how to deal with these things,” she said. “When you have the lack of impulse control that a 19-year-old has, that affects the behavior you exhibit.”

McNeill also said of Cruz: “He’s sad, he’s mournful, he’s remorseful. He’s just a broken human being.”

An initial decision will be whether Cruz is mentally competent to understand legal proceedings and assist in his own defense. Experts say it’s a relatively high bar to clear to be declared incompetent and McNeill said Cruz is “fully aware of what is going on.”

Cruz could try to plead innocent by reason of insanity, which also rarely works. James Holmes, the shooter who killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a Colorado movie theater in 2012, was convicted despite pleading insanity and was sentenced to life behind bars.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said the penalty phase of Cruz’s case is likely to be where his background, family situation, mental condition and life history will play the biggest part. Even if he pleads guilty and prosecutors refuse to waive the death penalty, a jury must decide by a 12-0 vote that Cruz deserves to be executed.

The victims’ families also have a legal right to participate in discussions over whether to seek the death penalty.

“I think among them there are many people who aren’t going to want to go through this,” Weinstein said. “That would save a lot of time and a lot of anguish for people. Some will say, ‘we don’t care, we want him put to death. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ They will want retribution.”

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