Parkland shooter jailed for life, confronted by victims' relatives

Parkland shooter jailed for life, confronted by victims' relatives

The gunman who murdered 17 people in a 2018 high school rampage was formally sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday in a Florida court, where he was verbally confronted by furious parents.

Florida school shooting accused Nikolas Cruz

Nikolas Cruz, now 24, avoided the death penalty last month when a jury could not unanimously agree that he deserved capital punishment for his shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Family members wept and held hands as Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer read out the 17 sentences of first-degree murder, saying after each victim's name that "the court imposes a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole."

Cruz also received life sentences for each of the 17 people he wounded in the shooting.

The failure to mete out the death penalty shocked and angered several of the victims' relatives last month.

But over a two-day hearing that ended with Wednesday's sentencing, multiple parents and other relatives of those killed were allowed to express their grief and anger by addressing Cruz directly.

"My hope for you is that the pain of what you did to my family burns and traumatizes you every day," said Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed, in comments reported by National Public Radio.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021. In the subsequent three-month penalty phase of the trial earlier this year, the jury saw graphic footage of the attack in which Cruz used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, and they listened to harrowing testimony from survivors.

During the trial, relatives and survivors were not allowed to speak directly to Cruz. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they called him a monster and a "murdering bastard" who deserved to "burn in hell," according to NPR.

In unadorned rage, some of them also excoriated the criminal justice system for sparing Cruz's life, speaking to him from a lectern about 20 feet (six meters) away from the convict.

"The idea that you, a coldblooded killer, can actually live each day, eat your meals and put your head down at night seems completely unjust," said teacher Stacey Lippel, who was wounded in the shooting, according to CBS News.

"The only comfort I have is that your life in prison will be filled with horror and fear."

On February 14, 2018, then-19-year-old Cruz walked into the school carrying a semiautomatic rifle. He had been expelled a year earlier for disciplinary reasons.

In nine minutes, he killed 17 people and wounded another 17.

Cruz fled by mixing in with people frantically escaping the gory scene but was arrested by police shortly after as he walked along the street.

The Parkland shooting stunned the nation and reignited the debate on gun control since Cruz had legally purchased the weapon he used despite his mental health issues.

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