Florida school shooting suspect said he heard ‘demons’
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The suspect in last year’s Florida high school massacre told officers moments after his capture he was hearing demons, a statement that could be used if his attorneys mount an insanity defense.
Body-camera video released by prosecutors begins with Nikolas Cruz handcuffed and face down on the ground on Feb. 14, 2018, with an officer kneeling beside him, helicopters roaring overhead.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 had ended an hour earlier, and Cruz had been captured in a Coral Springs neighborhood two miles from the school by Coconut Creek officer Michael Leonard.
Leonard had recognized Cruz by the burgundy Stoneman Douglas Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps shirt and black jeans the shooter had been wearing. Cruz has pleaded not guilty, but his attorneys have said he would plead guilty for a life sentence. They have not said whether they will attempt an insanity defense. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In the body camera video released Friday, the unidentified Coral Springs officer wearing it asks the then 19-year-old suspect casually, “What’s going on today, bro?”
Cruz replies, “Demons, man.”
“Demons?” the officer asks, playing with a piece of string in his hands.
“Voices,” Cruz replies.
Cruz then says “Where are the noises?” and cranes his neck to look up at the circling helicopters. He begins cursing and asks where he is.
“What happened?” Cruz yells.
The officer kneeling by Cruz tells him firmly, “Shut up,” while the officer wearing the body camera says, “Just be quiet, man.”
Inserting a profanity, Cruz says to himself, “What the...did you do?” Now out of view of the camera, Cruz sounds like he is sobbing and hyperventilating.
The officer wearing the camera trots to his nearby SUV to retrieve his cellphone and sends a text message. As he returns, Cruz can be heard weeping in the background, cursing at himself.
The two-minute video soon ends.
Hours later, Cruz would tell detectives during an interrogation that he has long heard demons, according to redacted transcripts released in August.
Cruz told detectives the voice appeared after his father died about 15 years ago but got worse after his mother died of pneumonia in November 2017, three months before the shooting.
Cruz described the voice as a male, about his age, and said the only person he ever told about it was his brother.
Detective John Curcio asked what the voice told him.
“Burn. Kill. Destroy,” Cruz responded.
“Burn, kill, destroy what?” the detective asked.
“Anything,” Cruz responded.
He told Curcio he had to fight the voice from taking over, that it was always bad. Curcio questioned that, asking how it could always be bad if Cruz had held down a job at a discount store for two years.
“The voice is in here,” he said, apparently pointing to his head. “And then it’s me. It’s just regular me trying to be a good person.” Curcio said everyone has a good and bad side.
“Do they really?” Cruz said.
Cruz’s trial is tentatively scheduled for early next year, but no date has been set.