As bits of potential evidence in the case of State vs. Nikolas Cruz trickle out of the Broward state attorney’s office, a narrative is beginning to emerge, one that could play out as the beginnings of a prosecutor’s opening statement.
First, there were the cellphone videos of the killer coldly detailing his plans, evidence of premeditation and a heinous, atrocious and cruel plot – the underpinnings not just of a murder conviction, but also a death sentence.
Then, two weeks ago, the state released the testimony of the first person to encounter the killer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, campus security monitor Andrew Medina. He described how he radioed ahead to a colleague to warn him that “crazy boy” was heading toward his building.
Friday, while waiting for a judge to decide how much can be released of a 12-hour videotape of Cruz in custody, the state moved the narrative along to its next phase – the statement of the monitor Medina radioed and a student who saw Cruz unpacking his assault rifle in the building’s east stairwell.
Cruz told the freshman who was on a bathroom break “you better get out of here, something bad is about to happen,” Chris McKenna recalled for police the day after the shooting. “And then he just, he told me to run. So I ran.”
Just seconds earlier, the security monitor in charge of that building, David Taylor, had walked down the west stairwell after being alerted by Medina of the then-trespasser.
“I believe he made eye contact with me. I looked at him and he immediately made a right turn into that far east stairwell,” Taylor told detectives.
Thinking Cruz was heading up the east stairs, Taylor said he climbed the west stairs, expecting to cut him off on the second floor.
But the killer had other plans.
His gun now loaded, Cruz turned back down the first-floor corridor and began firing.
Hearing the shots, Taylor told police he took cover in a second-floor closet.
McKenna, meanwhile, alerted Coach Aaron Feis who, after taking McKenna to safety, responded toward the sound of gunfire, opened the west doors to the building and was almost immediately killed.
Cruz, 19, is charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. The state is seeking the death penalty. It is releasing bits of potential evidence in response to public records requests, which must be honored once the materials are turned over to the defense.
Medina, Taylor and others at the school have said they knew Cruz was trouble before he was removed from the campus in February 2017.
“He’s been in trouble,” Taylor told a detective in his statement. “Not like fights or anything but like, just odd stuff like swastikas all over his backpack and on his folders.”