Just a few minutes after a Broward Sheriff’s Office detective started interviewing the Parkland shooter about how he massacred 17 people, he offered the young man some cold water.
“I don’t deserve it,” Nikolas Cruz told him.
The detective walked outside to get him some water anyway.
“Kill me. Just f—ing kill me. F—,” Cruz said, while he was alone in the interview room but still being recorded.
Cruz said he had been hearing a voice or demons speaking to him for years — right up until that morning and the night before. He claimed it started after his dad died when he was little and that it had gotten worse since his mom died in November, three months before the shooting. He described it as the voice of a young man, about his age, speaking inside his head. He said he the only person he had ever told about it was his brother.
“Burn, kill, destroy,” he said the “evil” voice told him. It also told him to buy a gun and hurt people — but didn’t suggest specific victims, he claimed.
Two or three weeks earlier, he had planned to go to a park and shoot people there, but he didn’t go through with it, he said. He couldn’t explain why but later described himself as a “coward.”
Most of the Parkland school shooter’s hourslong confession to the massacre of 17 people was released Monday afternoon by the Broward state attorney’s office. His self-incriminating statement was recorded on video just hours after the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
The cameras were rolling for the entire 11 hours Cruz was in the interrogation room, starting around 6:15 p.m. on Feb. 14. The interview was conducted — with breaks — over about six and a half of those hours. The rest of the time, Cruz was left alone and allowed to meet with his brother before he was taken to jail early the morning of Feb. 15.
The 216-page transcript includes 30 pages that are completely blacked out and another 50 that are partially redacted. The video will be released Tuesday.
Detective John Curcio interviewed Cruz at the sheriff’s headquarters soon after the 19-year-old former student was arrested. Cruz’s descriptions of the actual shootings were not included in the evidence released Monday because state law allows the “substance” of a confession to be withheld until it is either played at a pretrial hearing or during trial.
All details about the shooting are blacked out but Cruz spoke about a wide range of topics, including how he had killed birds and animals, his guns, his troubles at school, his sometimes bad relationship with his brother, and his life with his parents, who are both deceased.
Cruz has admitted he went on the school campus with an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people and injuring another 17. He said he bought the gun to “feel safe.”
Cruz apparently showed some remorse during the interview, though his specific words are blacked out. Curcio told him: “You know you can’t change what happened.”
Curcio expressed skepticism to Cruz about whether he was really hearing an evil voice, asking if the voice had suggested details of how to commit the attack, such as ordering the ride service he took to the Parkland school.
“The voice didn’t tell you to take Uber, right?” Curcio asked.
“Yes, it did,” Cruz replied.
He also said the voice kept him from feeling lonely and agreed it was like an imaginary friend.
Though a doctor at a local hospital had medically cleared Cruz to be interviewed by investigators, he said several times that he couldn’t remember basic facts like his phone number and where he had stayed the night before.
At one point, he asked to see a psychologist and said he had never seen one before, though other records indicate he had received mental health counseling and treatment in the past.
Cruz said he tried to kill himself at least twice in the months and years before the massacre. On the first occasion, he said he was lonely and binged on vodka, tequila and wine.
Depressed after his mother’s death, he said he attempted suicide again two months before the shooting. He said he took a large dose of over-the-counter drugs, including ibuprofen and Advil. He survived both attempts, he said.
“Cool looking,” Cruz said when the detective asked him why he bought the legally purchased AR-15 rifle he used in the attack at the school. The gun cost about $560. The ammunition, he said, he bought online. He estimated he had spent about $4,000 on his guns and ammunition. Cruz worked at a dollar store and had inherited some money from his mom.
He bought his first gun when he was 18, stating that it was to protect himself “from the voice,” which he claimed told him to cut himself and to kill himself.
“I don’t really believe there is a voice to be honest with you,” Curcio told him.
Cruz, who had been in ROTC when he attended the high school, told the detective that he had wanted to be an Army Ranger but had failed a military aptitude test: “Because I was stupid.”
Cruz said he had gotten in trouble, but hadn’t been prosecuted, for shooting at a chicken with his pellet gun when he was about 13.
Cruz also spoke about a girl, Emily, who he said was the only girlfriend he ever had: “She was the love of my life.”
After the brief relationship with Emily, he said he’d had other dates, but “I scared them,” Cruz said. “I don’t know why I scare them.”
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer examined the entire confession before ruling that most of it could be made public without any negative effect on Cruz’s right to a fair trial.
Three chilling cellphone video recordings Cruz made, outlining his deadly plans before the shooting, were made public by the prosecution in May.
His defense team declined to comment on his confession Monday. It has publicly acknowledged that he is guilty and repeatedly said he is offering to plead guilty in exchange for multiple life terms in prison, which would avoid the need for a trial. State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Left alone again, later in the interview, Cruz talked to himself several times:
“I want to die. At the end, you’re nothing but worthless s—, dude. You deserve to die because you’re f—ing worthless and you f—ing (unintelligible) everyone. I want to die.”
Under questioning from Curcio, he repeated, “I don’t like the demon” five times in a row. Then he asked for an attorney and told Curcio, four times in a row, “I’m scared.”
Curcio left him alone in the interview room again.
After the door shut, Cruz, apparently speaking about “the demon” not the detective, repeated five times in a row: “Why didn’t he kill me?”
Then he appeared to rant about wanting to die, complained about his eyes and said he couldn’t see.
The detective stopped the interview about 12:40 a.m. but allowed Cruz’s younger brother, Zachary, to speak with him while the cameras were still running.
Zachary asked what their mom would think.
“She would cry,” Cruz replied.
“People think you’re a monster now,” Zachary told him.
Zachary reminded his brother that he had promised to always have Nikolas’ back after their mom died and apologized for treating him poorly in the past. He urged his brother to stay strong and not to harm himself. They talked about their dogs. The two young men hugged and said they loved each other.
“You’re only 19, dude,” Zachary told Cruz. “You know how many years you had ahead of you … You’re not thinking about your future.”
© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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