Prosecutors released video of Nikolas Cruz‘s confession on Wednesday afternoon. The defendant admitted to opening fire with a semiautomatic rifle on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, says the State Attorney’s Office at the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida.
Police released a transcript of the interview on Monday which added up to more than 200 pages. The document showed that Cruz claimed a voice in his head told him to do violent things. He planned to shoot up a park a week before the school shooting, and he said (when alone in the interview room) that he wanted to die.
The confession video clocks in a just over 10 hours, 22 minutes, but much of it depicts Cruz sitting alone in the interview room. The bulk of the actual talking occurs in the first two hours. Here are some key moments.
1. Background Questions.
Broward County Sheriff’s Detective John Curcio enters the room at 10:10 and takes down basic information from Cruz. At 16:30, the detective returns to the room with some water.
At 18:05, Curcio says, “Come on, man, you gotta relax, man, because the questions I’m asking you right now are just your background questions.”
2. The ‘Demon.’
At 51:00, Cruz claims to have a voice in his head. It told him to do violent things, like build fire pits, kill birds, and (at 1:26:00) buy guns, he said. At about 55:30, he claimed it ordered him to take an Uber the day of the shooting. He described the voice in his head as male and being his age. At 1:34:55, Cruz said the voice was telling him to cut himself. Cruz also said the voice distrusted Curcio for being “too nice.”
Curcio says multiple times that he doubts that there is a voice in the first place. If there was one, he says, there were ways to stop it.
“Personally, I think you’re using the demon as an excuse,” Curcio says at 1:55:30.
“I’m not,” insists Cruz.
4. Plan to Shoot Up a Park.
At 1:01:00, Cruz begins to discuss a plot to shoot up a park the week before. He claimed not to know why didn’t go through with the plan.
5. The Demon Wants a Lawyer.
Cruz becomes visibly distraught at 1:56:00 after Curcio confronted him about “the demon.”
“Can I get an attorney or something,” Cruz says at 1:56:52.
“You want, what? An attorney?” asks Curcio. “Did the voice just tell you to get an attorney? Okay. Well, you tell the voice that–”
Cruz began to hit himself on the head. The detective tells him to stop.
6. Erratic Behavior.
Cruz seems visibly distraught at multiple points in the video. For example, scratching himself while alone in the room at 1:58:25. Crucio puts a stop to this by returning to the room and handcuffing him behind his back. The defendant eventually calms down.
7. Talking with His Brother.
At 5:47:17, the defendant’s brother, Zachary Cruz, is brought in so he could talk.
“People think you’re a monster now,” Zachary Cruz said.
“A monster?” said the defendant.
“You’re not acting like yourself,” said the brother. “Why? This is not who you are. Come on. Why would you do this? — Don’t even laugh.”
The brother said that he loved Cruz, and he apologized for being hard on him growing up.
You can read the interview transcript here.
Not everything was included in the released video. As with the transcript, prosecutors had to omit the “substance” of the confession. That means Cruz won’t be seen discussing details of the shooting itself.
Cruz is charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. His defense lawyers voiced a willingness to plead guilty, but the defense is trying to convince prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table.
Jurors would decide between death or life sentence, assuming Cruz is found guilty during a trial of first-degree murder. Under Florida law, it is a mitigating circumstance if the defendant is found to have committed a capital crime while “under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance,” but it’s an aggravating factor if he is determined to have knowingly risked the lives of many others.
17 people died at the shooting: 14-year-old student Alyssa Alhadeff, 35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel, 14-year-old student Martin Duque Anguiano, 17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet, 37-year-old assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 14-year-old student Jaime Guttenberg, 49-year-old athletic director Christopher Hixon, 15-year-old student Luke Hoyer, 14-year-old student Cara Loughran, 14-year-old student Gina Montalto, 17-year-old student Joaquin Oliver, 14-year-old student Alaina Petty, 18-year-old student Meadow Pollack, 17-year-old student Helena Ramsay, 14-year-old student Alexander Schachter, 16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup, and 15-year-old student Peter Wang.
[Screen grab via the Broward County, Florida Sheriff’s Office.]