Fort Lauderdale, FL – Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz blindsided prosecutors by announcing his intent to plead guilty to all of the charges against him in connection with his rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a subsequent attack on a jail guard.
Attorneys for the now-23-year-old Cruz told Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer on Oct. 15 that he will plead guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in court on Wednesday next week, NBC News reported.
Then Cruz’s attorneys told Sherer that their client also planned to plead guilty to four charges related to his attack on a guard at the Broward County jail subsequent to the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting.
That’s when the judge called for the defendant to be brought from jail to the courtroom, NBC News reported.
Sherer asked Cruz a series of questions and determined that he was fit to stand trial.
Then he pleaded guilty to all four counts related to his attack on the guard at the Broward County jail, including attempted aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, according to NBC News.
Cruz will make his formal guilty plea for the charges associated with the Parkland massacre on Oct. 20 when the court will meet in a larger courtroom.
His sentence will be determined by a jury at a later date, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors from the Broward State’s Attorney’s Office have said they planned to seek the death penalty, and the judge warned Cruz that the state could argue the conviction was an aggravating factor when they got to the penalty phase of his murder trial.
The guilty pleas entered by Cruz are not part of any plea agreement and have no conditions, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors said they still intended to seek the death penalty for the Parkland shooter.
Cruz’s shooting spree inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and faculty dead and another 17 wounded after the then-19-year-old expelled student opened fire with a legally-purchased AR-15.
While he was in jail awaiting trial for the school shootings, Cruz attacked a Broward sheriff’s deputy and the incident was captured on surveillance video.
Broward Detention Sergeant Raymond Beltran was guarding Cruz in the facility’s dayroom just before 6 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2018 when they got into a verbal disagreement, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Sgt. Beltran had told Cruz to stop dragging his sandals on the ground, and Cruz responded to the detention officer’s command with his middle finger, WTVJ reported.
The incident report said Sgt. Beltran stood up, and Cruz rushed him, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The newly released video showed an enraged Cruz lunging at the deputy and slamming him back against the wall.
Then Cruz punched Sgt. Beltran with his left hand, and the two men began grappling and fell to the ground.
The report said they struggled until Cruz managed to get on top of Sgt. Beltran. Once there, he proceeded to punch the detention deputy in the face multiple times with his right hand, the Sun Sentinel reported.
At that point, another detention deputy saw what was happening in the dayroom and called for backup, but the video showed that no one arrived in the dayroom to assist the deputy for more than 90 seconds.
As Cruz continued to rain blows down on the sergeant’s face, he grabbed hold of the deputy’s Taser and removed it from the holster, the Sun Sentinel reported.
The weapon went off as the two wrestled for control of the weapon, according to the incident report.
Surveillance video from within the jail showed Cruz struck Sgt. Beltran several more times in the face before the detention deputy was able to take the weapon away.
After the sergeant regained control of the weapon, he struck Cruz in the face while holding it, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The school shooter then got off Sgt. Beltran and took a seat in a chair in the dayroom.
The video showed Sgt. Beltran leveled the Taser at Cruz and ordered the man to the floor.
He put Cruz in handcuffs a moment later.
The sergeant was injured in the attack by Cruz, but Broward officials didn’t release any details about those injuries.