It’s Thursday, October 21st - and NBC 6 has the top stories for the day.
No. 1 - Over three years after the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 students and staff inside a Parkland high school, the man who confessed to pulling the trigger pleaded guilty in a Broward County courtroom Wednesday.
Nikolas Cruz entered the plea on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for the February 14, 2018 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz, 23, entered his pleas in a courtroom attended by a dozen relatives of victims after answering a long list of questions from Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer aimed at confirming his mental competency. Scherer later allowed Cruz to make a statement, which he used to apologize to the families of the victims. The guilty plea sets up a penalty phase where Cruz will be fighting against the death penalty and hoping for life without parole. Scherer said jury selection is scheduled to begin in January.
No. 2 - Two puppies were stolen in a wild shootout that was caught on camera in West Park Monday evening, officials with the Broward County Sheriff's Office said.
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According to police, three men arrived at the victim's home late Monday, purportedly to inquire about purchasing the exotic French bulldogs the victim had posted on Instagram. The homeowner said she was selling the puppies for $4,000 each. The men claimed to know a friend of the victim, a person the homeowner trusted. But when she called the friend to confirm, things took a turn. Her friend said he didn't send the men -- but by then, the suspects were already inside the victim's home. Seconds later, she was in a headlock with a gun to her head. Click here for the story in a report from NBC 6’s Johnny Archer.
No. 3 - The FBI field office in Tampa confirmed at a news conference that what appear to be human remains and other items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found during the ongoing search at a Florida wildlife park.
In addition to the possible human remains, the FBI said investigators found a backpack and a notebook believed to belong to Laundrie near a path at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park. The agency added that up until recently, the items were underwater, and were only found now that the water had receded. Teams will likely be on scene for several days, the FBI official said, and the park will remain closed to public until further notice. The Tampa FBI office said that the Denver team is now leading the investigation. Earlier Wednesday, the FBI confirmed that "items of interest" had been located at the park central to the investigation, though declined to elaborate further.
No. 4 - U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.
The Food and Drug Administration’s decisions mark a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But before more people roll up their sleeves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel Thursday before finalizing official recommendations for who should get boosters and when. The latest moves would expand by tens of millions the number of Americans eligible for boosters and formally allow “mixing and matching” of shots — making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.
No. 5 - February 14, 2019, was the day Carla Walker found out she had breast cancer. Carla did everything by the book. She got yearly mammograms along with MRI screenings every six months.
But one of the screenings caught her doctor’s eye. Her cancer was caught at stage one. It was early enough for the mother of two to get a double mastectomy with no need for chemotherapy or radiation. Three of Carla’s sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer. This happened despite them getting genetic testing to see if they were high-risk for the disease. They all tested negative. Click here to find out why that took place in a report from NBC 6’s Kim Wynne.
No. 6 - The Miami Heat are back in action and set to tip off their upcoming NBA season Thursday night inside the newly named FTX Arena.
The Heat will open the season against a familiar foe from last year: a Milwaukee Bucks team who swept Miami in the first round of last season’s playoffs on their way to winning the NBA championship. It will be the Miami debut for several players signed in the offseason, including guard Kyle Lowry. NBC 6 Sports will be live at the arena will all the coverage and highlights starting at 4 p.m.