The brash, attention-seeking killer in chilling video clips stands in stark contrast to the feeble young man who can barely lift his head during court proceedings.
On video, Nikolas Cruz brags about how the forthcoming massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas is going to make him notorious.
It’s a bravado that vanished from the moment of his arrest.
In the videos released Wednesday by prosecutors, Cruz, 19, seems almost gleeful at the prospect of what was to come — the 17 murders and the terror of the survivors.
“Can’t wait,” he said in one recording after chuckling that his former classmates at the Parkland high school were going to know the power of his AR-15 style rifle.
After the Feb. 14 massacre, prosecutors are seeking to put him to death and the families of the victims have glared at him with contempt, anger and a thirst for justice.
“It’s gonna be a big event,” Cruz says in the first video. “When you see me on the news you’ll all know who I am,” he says with a creepy laugh.
“You’re all going to die,” he says in a sing-song voice.
“Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Ah yeah. Can’t wait.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was one of the victims, said he read a transcript of the videos but chose not to look at them.
“I already know what he did,” said Guttenberg. “He’s evil. Repulsive. He deserves to be dead. … He talked about how he was going to be someone now. It’s a level of thought that I can’t comprehend. It looks, from the words, like the kid had joy. I don’t want to see the delight he took in planning the murders of our children.”
Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes declined to comment on the videos’ contents, “out of respect for the families of the victims.”
Defense lawyers have offered to have Cruz plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison, arguing it would spare the victims’ families from having to relive the tragedy through what is certain to be a lengthy trial and appellate process.
Psychologist Peter Langman, author of “School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators,” said what stood out from the videos is the shooter’s callousness and the lack of empathy.
“He seemed very calm,” Langman said. “He seemed pleased at what he was about to do. And there was no concern for human life.”
Cruz’s odd, creepy laugh is reminiscent of Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old who in 2014 killed six and injured 14 near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Langman said.
Rodger made a video while sitting in his car in which he bragged about what he would do, and that he would show no mercy — accompanied by the laugh.
“My name is Nik, and I’m going to be the next school shooter of 2018,” Cruz said in the first of his video clips. “My goal is at least 20 people.”
Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder, which requires prosecutors to prove the crime was premeditated.
That job, according to the father of one victim, was made simple by the statements Cruz made.
“Today is the day. The day that it all begins. The day of my massacre shall begin,” Cruz says. “All the kids in school will run in fear and hide. From the wrath of my power they will know who I am.”
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was among the dead, said Cruz can now rule out an insanity plea.
“It just shows this kid was competent. This whole thing was premeditated murder,” he said. “This kid knew exactly what he was doing.”
Cruz offered only vague hints about his motive.
“I’ve had enough being told what to do and when to do. … Telling me I’m an idiot and a dumbass,” he says. “In real life, you’re all the dumbass. You’re all stupid and brainwashed.”
Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama who has studied school shootings, said Cruz appears to exhibit all three hallmarks of school shooters — suicidal ideation, perceived victimization and a desire for attention or fame.
Cruz’s suicidal thoughts are expressed as he discusses how his life is nothing and meaningless, Lankford said. “I was struck by the fact that he seemed so textbook,” Lankford said.
Cruz also singled out a girl or woman named “Angie,” vowing to always love her.
“I hope to see you in the afterlife,” he says.
Angie’s identity was not immediately clear — the name did not belong to any of the murdered or wounded victims. It also did not appear on a redacted list of civilian witnesses who gave statements to investigators after the shooting.
© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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