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Teachers weep recalling students killed in Parkland shooting

A teacher gave heart-wrenching testimony Wednesday, recalling how a student in her Holocaust studies class correctly answered a question seconds before he became one of 17 people murdered by Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz.Ivy Schamis was leading students through a discussion about the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany when Nick Dworet correctly answered that Adolf Dassler founded the Adidas shoe company, adding that Dassler’s brother founded the rival Puma brand.It was then they heard the first gunshots in the hallway, and Cruz began firing through the glass on her classroom door.”It was really seconds later that the barrel of that AR-15 just ambushed our classroom. It came right through that glass panel and was just shooting everywhere. It was very loud. Very frightening. I kept thinking about these kids who should not be experiencing this at all,” she testified, wiping her eyes with a tissue.She said the students scrambled to find safety behind furniture, but didn’t panic and acted with bravery and maturity as they waited to be rescued. Three students were wounded in her class and two were killed: Dworet and Helena Ramsay, both 17.When shown their portraits, she began to weep.”That’s my girl, Helena Ramsay,” she said. “Nicholas Dworet, handsome boy.”Dworet’s brother Alexander was grazed by a bullet in a classroom across the hall, where three students were killed and several more wounded. English teacher Dara Hass testified Tuesday about how Cruz fired through a window in her door.Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder for the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre. The jury must decide if the former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student should be sentenced to death or life without parole for the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury. The trial is expected to last through at least October.Nine other gunmen who killed at least 17 people died during or immediately after their shootings, either by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 slaying of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.The testimony came one day after jurors saw surveillance video of the shooting, with many victims being gunned down at point-blank range. Cruz also killed some of the wounded by firing into them a second time as they lay on the floor.When jurors eventually get the case, they will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend capital punishment.Every vote must be unanimous for Cruz to receive death. A non-unanimous vote for any one of the victims would mean life in prison for the killing of that person.The jurors are told that to vote for the death penalty, the aggravating circumstances presented by the prosecution for the victim in question must, in their judgment, outweigh mitigating factors presented by the defense.Regardless of the evidence, any juror can vote for life in prison out of mercy. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they are capable of voting for either sentence. Jury selectionThe jurors currently on the main panel are two banking executives and two technology workers, a probation officer, a human resources professional and a Walmart store stock supervisor. Also included are a librarian, a medical claims adjuster, a legal assistant, a customs officer and a retired insurance executive. The jury selection was filled with setbacks and possible mistrials over the questioning of possible jurors and COVID-19 cases on the defense. The defense asked to delay the trial because of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 dead. McNeill’s team argued that the shooting has again raised emotions in Broward County and makes it impossible for Cruz to get a fair trial currently.Many of the possible jurors were not able to hold seat because of the time commitment for the lengthy process.Full Recap: Jury sworn in to sentencing trial for Parkland high school shooterPleading guilty to all chargesCruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the deadly shooting.Legal analysts said Cruz’s plan to plead guilty to all charges in the Parkland shooting — along with the guilty plea in a battery on a jail guard charge — is a calculated move by his attorneys for him to avoid the death penalty.Video below: Cruz pleads guilty in courtBy pleading guilty to killing 17 people and attempting to kill 17 more in 2018, legal experts said Cruz is hoping to convince the jury that he is taking some responsibility for his actions.”He’s trying to save his life, and the only way to do that is to take responsibility and not put all these poor people through a trial,” criminal defense attorney Marc Shiner said. Death penalty trials in Florida and much of the country often take two years to start because of their complexity, but Cruz’s was further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and extensive legal wrangling.If Cruz is sentenced to death, that will still not be the end of the process. Death sentences in Florida are given automatic priority review by the Florida Supreme Court. Trial preparationsTrial preparations were extensive for what was expected to be the biggest murder trial in Broward County history for one of the most infamous crimes in Florida history.Cruz was arrested about an hour after the attack with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on Valentine’s Day 2018.Video below: Body camera of arrest of Nikolas Cruz releasedHis lawyers repeatedly offered to plead guilty in return for a guaranteed sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors refused to drop their pursuit of the death penalty.Video below: Cruz interrogation video releasedMuch of the penalty phase is expected to focus on Cruz’s mental condition at the time of the slayings, with prosecutors emphasizing their horrific nature and Cruz’s intensive planning beforehand. Victims of the Parkland school shootingSeventeen students and staff were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Seventeen others were injured.Can’t see the graphic? Click here.Settlement with Broward School DistrictThe Broward County School District will pay more than $26 million to the families of the victims.Board members approved the two legal settlements on in December 2021.A total of $25 million will be shared by 51 plaintiffs, including families of the 17 dead as well as students and staff who were injured. Another $1.25 million will be paid in one lump sum to Anthony Borges, who suffered some of the most severe injuries.Video below: Nikolas Cruz outlines shooting plan in video recordingFour years after shootingFor many families, they said there will never be closure for the loss of their loved ones.Students and families turned into activists.’I still can’t believe this is my reality’: Parkland parent creates way to track school violence after son is killed in school shootingJim Gard, a math teacher that day, said they were all victims.”These kids that were in the class, just because they weren’t hit doesn’t mean they weren’t hit,” he said.And since that day, so many of those victims have refused to just sit back and do nothing. In the days following the shooting, a movement called March For Our Lives was born.David Hogg was one of the founders.”When we started doing the march, we thought there would be about 90 people that we could get up to D.C.,” Hogg said. “We got near a million.”Video below: Father of Parkland victim hangs banner in view of White House four years after shootingFour years later, March For Our Lives is still going strong with chapters across the country.They’ve helped pass state laws designed to keep guns away from violent offenders. They’ve worked to get more federal funding to control gun violence.’I have to accomplish her dream’: Hunter Pollack changes career path after sister is murdered in Parkland massacreIt’s become a full-time job nobody wants.”We want our job to be done so we can go back to being college students or high school students and young people and young professionals,” Hogg said.When they watched the Parkland shooter plead guilty to the murders he committed, both Hogg and Gard are pleased to see this chapter end.Video below: School safety changes made following Parkland school shootingThey just ask you not to call it closure.”It’s the parents of the kids, the parents who lost their children, I don’t know if there can ever be closure on that,” Gard said. “I know for a lot of the people that I talked to, families that I talked to, there is not closure that can come. There’s nothing that will ever bring their kids back, their siblings back, their best friends back.”If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, call 211 or the National Suicide Hotline at 988.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A teacher gave heart-wrenching testimony Wednesday, recalling how a student in her Holocaust studies class correctly answered a question seconds before he became one of 17 people murdered by Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Ivy Schamis was leading students through a discussion about the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany when Nick Dworet correctly answered that Adolf Dassler founded the Adidas shoe company, adding that Dassler’s brother founded the rival Puma brand.

It was then they heard the first gunshots in the hallway, and Cruz began firing through the glass on her classroom door.

“It was really seconds later that the barrel of that AR-15 just ambushed our classroom. It came right through that glass panel and was just shooting everywhere. It was very loud. Very frightening. I kept thinking about these kids who should not be experiencing this at all,” she testified, wiping her eyes with a tissue.

She said the students scrambled to find safety behind furniture, but didn’t panic and acted with bravery and maturity as they waited to be rescued. Three students were wounded in her class and two were killed: Dworet and Helena Ramsay, both 17.

When shown their portraits, she began to weep.

“That’s my girl, Helena Ramsay,” she said. “Nicholas Dworet, handsome boy.”

Dworet’s brother Alexander was grazed by a bullet in a classroom across the hall, where three students were killed and several more wounded. English teacher Dara Hass testified Tuesday about how Cruz fired through a window in her door.

Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Dara Hass wipes away tears as she testifies in court about the shooting in her classroom during the penalty phase of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz’s trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. 

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder for the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre. The jury must decide if the former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student should be sentenced to death or life without parole for the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury. The trial is expected to last through at least October.

Nine other gunmen who killed at least 17 people died during or immediately after their shootings, either by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 slaying of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

The testimony came one day after jurors saw surveillance video of the shooting, with many victims being gunned down at point-blank range. Cruz also killed some of the wounded by firing into them a second time as they lay on the floor.

When jurors eventually get the case, they will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend capital punishment.

Every vote must be unanimous for Cruz to receive death. A non-unanimous vote for any one of the victims would mean life in prison for the killing of that person.

The jurors are told that to vote for the death penalty, the aggravating circumstances presented by the prosecution for the victim in question must, in their judgment, outweigh mitigating factors presented by the defense.

Regardless of the evidence, any juror can vote for life in prison out of mercy. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they are capable of voting for either sentence.


Jury selection

The jurors currently on the main panel are two banking executives and two technology workers, a probation officer, a human resources professional and a Walmart store stock supervisor. Also included are a librarian, a medical claims adjuster, a legal assistant, a customs officer and a retired insurance executive.

The jury selection was filled with setbacks and possible mistrials over the questioning of possible jurors and COVID-19 cases on the defense.

The defense asked to delay the trial because of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 dead. McNeill’s team argued that the shooting has again raised emotions in Broward County and makes it impossible for Cruz to get a fair trial currently.

Many of the possible jurors were not able to hold seat because of the time commitment for the lengthy process.

Full Recap: Jury sworn in to sentencing trial for Parkland high school shooter

Pleading guilty to all charges

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the deadly shooting.

Legal analysts said Cruz’s plan to plead guilty to all charges in the Parkland shooting — along with the guilty plea in a battery on a jail guard charge — is a calculated move by his attorneys for him to avoid the death penalty.

Video below: Cruz pleads guilty in court

By pleading guilty to killing 17 people and attempting to kill 17 more in 2018, legal experts said Cruz is hoping to convince the jury that he is taking some responsibility for his actions.

“He’s trying to save his life, and the only way to do that is to take responsibility and not put all these poor people through a trial,” criminal defense attorney Marc Shiner said.

Death penalty trials in Florida and much of the country often take two years to start because of their complexity, but Cruz’s was further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and extensive legal wrangling.

If Cruz is sentenced to death, that will still not be the end of the process. Death sentences in Florida are given automatic priority review by the Florida Supreme Court.

Trial preparations

Trial preparations were extensive for what was expected to be the biggest murder trial in Broward County history for one of the most infamous crimes in Florida history.

Cruz was arrested about an hour after the attack with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Video below: Body camera of arrest of Nikolas Cruz released

His lawyers repeatedly offered to plead guilty in return for a guaranteed sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors refused to drop their pursuit of the death penalty.

Video below: Cruz interrogation video released

Much of the penalty phase is expected to focus on Cruz’s mental condition at the time of the slayings, with prosecutors emphasizing their horrific nature and Cruz’s intensive planning beforehand.

Victims of the Parkland school shooting

Seventeen students and staff were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Seventeen others were injured.

Can’t see the graphic? Click here.

Settlement with Broward School District

The Broward County School District will pay more than $26 million to the families of the victims.

Board members approved the two legal settlements on in December 2021.

A total of $25 million will be shared by 51 plaintiffs, including families of the 17 dead as well as students and staff who were injured. Another $1.25 million will be paid in one lump sum to Anthony Borges, who suffered some of the most severe injuries.

Video below: Nikolas Cruz outlines shooting plan in video recording

Four years after shooting

For many families, they said there will never be closure for the loss of their loved ones.

Students and families turned into activists.

‘I still can’t believe this is my reality’: Parkland parent creates way to track school violence after son is killed in school shooting

Jim Gard, a math teacher that day, said they were all victims.

“These kids that were in the class, just because they weren’t hit doesn’t mean they weren’t hit,” he said.

And since that day, so many of those victims have refused to just sit back and do nothing. In the days following the shooting, a movement called March For Our Lives was born.

David Hogg was one of the founders.

“When we started doing the march, we thought there would be about 90 people that we could get up to D.C.,” Hogg said. “We got near a million.”

Video below: Father of Parkland victim hangs banner in view of White House four years after shooting

Four years later, March For Our Lives is still going strong with chapters across the country.

They’ve helped pass state laws designed to keep guns away from violent offenders. They’ve worked to get more federal funding to control gun violence.

‘I have to accomplish her dream’: Hunter Pollack changes career path after sister is murdered in Parkland massacre

It’s become a full-time job nobody wants.

“We want our job to be done so we can go back to being college students or high school students and young people and young professionals,” Hogg said.

When they watched the Parkland shooter plead guilty to the murders he committed, both Hogg and Gard are pleased to see this chapter end.

Video below: School safety changes made following Parkland school shooting

They just ask you not to call it closure.

“It’s the parents of the kids, the parents who lost their children, I don’t know if there can ever be closure on that,” Gard said. “I know for a lot of the people that I talked to, families that I talked to, there is not closure that can come. There’s nothing that will ever bring their kids back, their siblings back, their best friends back.”

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, call 211 or the National Suicide Hotline at 988.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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