Parkland shooter sentenced to life in prison

Alex Muniz, Contributor

A non-unanimous jury returned a verdict of life in prison without parole for Stoneman Douglas High School gunman Nikolas Cruz in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Oct. 13. Three jurors refused to vote for the death penalty, officially ending the three-month trial with a life sentence.

In a statement to CBS Miami, the jury foreman, Benjamin Thomas, described one juror who believed Cruz exhibited signs of mental illness and should not be sentenced to death and two other jurors who also agreed his life should be spared.

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 others inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz entered the three-story building equipped with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and began firing at random in a hallway. A fire alarm was then set off, causing students to exit their classrooms, where Cruz continued the massacre. He proceeded to move up each floor of the building, firing into classrooms until he dropped his weapon on the third floor and attempted to blend in with the crowd of students outside. 14 of the victims were students and three were faculty members.

During the contentious trial, the families of the victims endured grizzly prosecution videos and photos of the scene of the shooting and disturbing explicit testimony with some family members leaving the courtroom overcome with emotion. The defense presented witnesses who testified to Cruz’s birthmothers drinking and drug use during her pregnancy as a reason for his possible fetal alcohol syndrome and aggressive, erratic behavior.

Manuel Oliver, father of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver and founder of Change the Ref, weighed in on his reaction to the sentencing, “Even the death penalty was not enough for me,” he stated. “The way that Joaquin died… the amount of suffering and pain, the shooter will have never received that punishment.”

The father of 14-year-old victim Jaime Guttenburg, Fred Guttenburg, also issued a statement saying, “This decision today only makes it more likely that the next mass shooting will be attempted.” Guttenberg said he believes another potential mass shooter could be planning their attack right now, and because of the outcome of the trial, “that person now believes that they can get away with it.”

One Criminal Justice major at the University commented on the sentencing stating “ I don’t agree with the verdict, but I think at this time, all the attention and anger needs to be directed to gun reform in this country. The families have suffered enough, they need time to heal.”

Out of respect for the lives lost that day, the names and ages are listed below.

  • Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
  • Martin Duque, 14
  • Nicholas Dworet, 17
  • Aaron Feis, 37
  • Jaime Guttenberg, 14
  • Chris Hixon, 49
  • Luke Hoyer, 15
  • Cara Loughran, 14
  • Gina Montalto, 14
  • Joaquin Oliver, 17
  • Alaina Petty, 14
  • Meadow Pollack, 18
  • Helena Ramsay, 17
  • Alex Schachter, 14
  • Carmen Schentrup, 16
  • Peter Wang, 15