FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Wednesday marked Day 3 in the penalty phase trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz. Eyewitnesses gave heart-wrenching testimony, while a former student bared his gunshot wound scars to jurors.
The day began with jurors hearing testimony from two students, Ashley Baez and Genesis Valentin, both of whom were injured on that fateful day.
Baez was shot in her thigh, while Valentin suffered shrapnel wounds to her legs.
Baez told jurors that she was actually attending a band class on another part of the campus and walked over to the freshman building to use the bathroom, but while on the way, she heard gunshots, saw the shooter, and ran into an unlocked classroom seeking cover.
Both students maintained their composure while recounting those events to the jury.
Teacher Ivy Schamis recalled how her student correctly answered a question in her Holocaust studies class moments before gunshots penetrated the glass window of her classroom door.
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“The class was super excited because he knew the answer and we were so happy for him,” Schamis said. “(The) barrel of that AR-15 just ambushed our classroom--boom, boom!”
Nicholas Dworet and Helena Ramsey were killed and three of their classmates were wounded. Schamis said all of them were brave.
Schamis grew visibly emotional when asked to identify the two students who died, calling Ramsey “(her) girl.”
Schamis also testified that while she knew some of her students had been injured, she never realized two had been killed because of the hectic and sudden way they were rushed outside by SWAT team members, who told them not to look down while walking out.
Later in the morning, jurors also heard from another MSD teacher, Ronit Reoven, who described hearing the gunshots and telling her students to take cover.
“You feel the vibrations in your chest as the gunshots were getting closer and louder,” she said.
She later described how one student used a denim jacket as a tourniquet to stop another injured student from bleeding.
Jurors leaned into former MSD student Madeline Wilford as she described being shot by Cruz.
“I was shot four times: in my right arm, my right lung, some of my ribs on my right side and I had surgery on my abdomen,” Wilford said.
Later in the day, former MSD student Anthony Borges showed jurors scars on his abdomen from where Cruz shot him.
Another former student, Veronica Steel, talked about her teacher, Scott Beigel, who died rushing students into his classroom.
“His body was partially inside of the classroom and his torso was outside of the classroom,” Steel said.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, Cruz shielded the sound of his own gunshots played to jurors in the courtroom, hands covering his ears.
On Tuesday, jurors watched graphic video of him killing the 17 victims as he stalked through a three-story classroom building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
The video, compiled from 13 security cameras inside the building, was not shown to the gallery, where parents of many of the victims sat. Shown later to reporters, it depicts Cruz crouching and stalking, firing at anything that moves, down the halls and into classrooms.
He shoots many of his victims at point-blank range, going back to some as they lay wounded on the floor to kill them with a second volley of shots. In one segment, athletic director Chris Hixon burst through a door to confront Cruz, but was wounded and fell. He crawled behind a pillar. Cruz kills him with a blast as he passes.
The 12 jurors and 10 alternates stared intently at their video screens as it played. Many held hands to their faces as they viewed the 15-minute recording, which has no sound.
Some squirmed. One juror looked at the screen, looked up at Cruz with his eyes wide and then returned to the video.
Cruz did not appear to watch the video, exchanging occasional whispers with one of his attorneys.
The jury will decide whether he is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
The trial is expected to last for about four months.