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Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to killing 17 in high school massacre

Nikolas Cruz has pleaded guilty to killing 14 students and three staff dead in a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland in 2018 - the deadliest attack ever at a US high school.  

Cruz will enter guilty pleas to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a Florida court this morning.

Now 23, Cruz was a 19-year-old expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioral issues at the time of the 'cold, calculated and premeditated' killings, the Broward State's Attorney Office said in court documents.

The gun violence on February 14, 2018, left 14 students and three staff dead and 17 others injured.

At the hearing this morning Cruz told the judge he was experiencing 'anxiety,' which she then said was 'normal under the circumstances'. 

Nikolas Cruz entered guilty pleas to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a Florida court this morning (pictured in court today)

At his sentencing Cruz addressed the victims and their families. 'May I take off my mask?' he asked the judge before saying: 'I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it everyday'

'I know that you don't believe me,' Cruz said to the court as he stared down at the podium, adding that he now 'gets nightmares sometimes and can't even watch TV anymore'

He told Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he understood that he would, in the best case scenario, spend life in prison or be sentenced to death, and would not be allowed to appeal his sentence.

At his sentencing Cruz asked whether he could address the victims and their families.

'May I take off my mask?' he asked before saying: 'I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it everyday.

If I were to get a second chance I would do everything in my power to help others.' 

'I do not care if you don't believe me,' he said to the court, adding that he now gets 'nightmares sometimes...and can't even watch TV anymore'.

Cruz said as he held back tears: 'I hate drugs and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana... I'm trying my best to maintain my composure and I just want you to know that I'm really sorry.'

Cruz told Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer (pictured) that he understood that he would, in the best case scenario, spend life in prison or be sentenced to death, and would not be allowed to appeal his sentence

After making his statement Cruz was seen being handcuffed (left) as an officer took his fingerprints (right)

Parents of victims of the mass school shooting got emotional in court as Cruz pleaded guilty to all 34 charges

Cruz hung his head at the court hearing on Wednesday morning

He stared down at the podium throughout the entirety of his statement. 

'I know it's your decision to decide whether I live or die,' he said to the judge. 

'What I meant was that I believe that they should have the right to choose - the victims - whether I take life or death,' Cruz added, although he clarified to the judge that he understands the law, which says a jury will decide Cruz's fate. 

After making his statement Cruz was seen being handcuffed as an officer took his fingerprints. 

Because prosecutors have vowed to seek the death penalty, his change of plea from not guilty would open the penalty phase in which a jury would decide whether he should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

In Florida juries determine whether to impose a death sentence. But if prosecutors are not willing to drop the potential death penalty as part of any plea deal that may be struck with Cruz, then a jury would decide.

During last week's hearing, Cruz pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a law enforcement officer in a separate case in which he was accused of kicking, hitting and punching a sheriff's deputy as well as attempting to remove his taser in a November 2018 jail attack.

Before accepting his plea, Scherer asked him if he understood the impact the assault case could have in the penalty phase of the murder case.

Now 23, Cruz was a 19-year-old expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioral issues at the time of the 'cold, calculated and premeditated' killings. (Pictured: Students were evacuated from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School by police during the mass shooting on February 14, 2008)

'Sir, I need to advise you that the state is going to be using this conviction in this case as evidence of an aggravating factor for purposes of arguing in favor of the death penalty. Do you understand that?' Scherer asked Cruz.

'Yes, ma'am,' Cruz responded.

Some of the teenagers who survived the deadly rampage formed 'March for Our Lives,' an organization that called for gun control legislation such as a ban on assault-style rifles.

In March 2018, the group held a nationally televised march in Washington that sparked hundreds of similar rallies worldwide. 

Cruz was just 18 when he legally purchased the semiautomatic AR-15 rifle used in the Wednesday, February 14, 2018, shooting from a licensed gun dealer. 

In a confession later that afternoon Cruz claimed that a voice in his head told him to do violent things, including buying guns, building fire pits and killing birds. 

He then said that this menacing voice - which he described as a male around his age and called Demon - instructed him to order an Uber a day of the massacre, which he admitted to planning for up to a week before. 

In the confession video - which was 10 hours and 22 minutes long - Cruz also said that Demon distrusted the man interviewing him, Broward County Sheriff’s Detective John Curcio, for being 'too nice'. 

Curcio said: 'Personally, I think you’re using the demon as an excuse' but Cruz insisted: 'I'm not.'

Then, when left alone in the interview room, Cruz was heard saying that he wanted to die.