Parkland siblings testify during Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty trial

Members of the Wilford family walk into the courtroom on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – David Wilford and his kids were back in Broward County court on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale. He sat in the front row across from the witness stand, and he had a direct view of Nikolas Cruz.

Siblings John and Madeleine “Maddy” Wilford, both former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, testified during Cruz’s death penalty trial.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz asked Maddy on Wednesday to focus on her injuries. A day later, Satz asked John to describe his run-in with Cruz after the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre.

“I just was telling him, You know like, ‘This is so chaotic! You know, ‘This is crazy! All of these helicopters and squad cars coming. What do you think this could be?’ And I don’t remember him saying much,” John said.

John Wilford points to Nikolas Cruz in Broward County court on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

Surveillance video shows John sitting down in a booth when Cruz joined him in the booth. Cruz was drinking a cherry and blue raspberry Icee he had bought at Subway in the neighboring Walmart.

“I didn’t think much of it. I figured he was from school because of what he was wearing,” John said, adding he had never met Cruz before.

Cruz was wearing a burgundy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps polo shirt, black denim cargo pants, and a baseball cap with a New York City Police Department logo.

When John’s mother told him to walk out to the parking lot, Cruz followed. John said that was when Cruz became “pretty insistent” on getting a ride, and he said no.

“I was nervous. I was panicked. I also had a bad gut feeling about it,” John said.

Cruz decided to walk. John said he and his mother drove by him. Shortly after, Officer Michael Leonard, with the Coconut Creek Police Department, also saw Cruz walking and arrested him.

Maddy Wilford said she fainted after Cruz shot her and she went in and out of consciousness while she was hospitalized. She said she had to undergo four surgeries.

“I was shot four times in my right arm, right lung, some of my ribs on my right side, and I had surgery on my abdomen,” Wilford said later adding, “I am able to use my hand but I still do have trouble breathing.”

Video of John Wilford’s testimony

Watch McDonald’s surveillance video

After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz went to a McDonald's restaurant and asked a student for a ride. Cruz had just shot the studen'ts older sister and 33 others.

Video of Madeleine “Maddy” Wilford’s testimony

Related story: Cruz’s death penalty trial: 15 out of 17 injured testify in 2 days

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About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.