Nikolas Cruz Trial Updates: Teacher Pushed Students to Safety

Live Updates
  • The sentencing hearing for the Parkland, Florida school shooter continued on Wednesday.
  • Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder in the 2018 massacre at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
  • Jurors will decide if Cruz will face the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  • The prosecution has called several witnesses and showed the jury video and photo evidence from the day of the shooting.
  • Teachers and former students, many of whom had been shot, have shared their experiences from that day.
Nikolas Cruz Day Three
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz listens to the proceedings during the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse on July 20, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Getty Images/Mike Stocker - Pool

Live Updates Have Ended.

Teacher Pushed Students to Safety

Ernest Rospierski, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, said he was locked out of his classroom after following "normal fire procedure" when the building's fire alarm began going off the afternoon of the school shooting.

He later pushed students into an alcove near his room to hide them from the gunman when he couldn't get inside his room.

Rospierski, who was called to the witness stand on Wednesday, said he was grading papers when he and the 28 or so students in his classroom heard the alarm. They left the classroom and were heading toward the stairwell at the end of the hallway when Rospierski said he noticed some students starting to go back the way they had come.

Rospierski, who said he is familiar with guns, said he then heard gunshots and went to the stairwell to investigate. He said he didn't see anything but could still hear gunfire, so he returned to the "very packed hallway" and tried to calm the students.

By the time Rospierski was back at his classroom, the shooter had arrived on Rospierski's floor. Some students ducked inside classrooms that were open, but Rospierski said his keys were locked inside.

"I pushed a bunch of kids who were in front of me into the alcove outside of my door," Rospierski said. He estimated there were 12 or so students who were then hiding in the alcove.

As they hid, Rospierski said he stuck his head out to assess the situation.

"I think that's when I got grazed by the first bullet," Rospierski said. He was grazed on his face and on his hip, though he said he didn't notice the hip injury until the day after the shooting.

With the gunman approaching, Rospierski said he tried to get in through the door of the neighboring classroom, but it too was locked.

"I came back after trying her door once, I yelled at the kids to run, and then I took off down the hallway and held open the first door for the kids as they came through," he said. He held the door in case the gunman tried to enter, and later went to the teacher's lounge, where Rospierski said he knew there was a bathroom door that would lock.

Audio From Parkland Shooting Played in Congress

During the House Judiciary Committee markup on gun control legislation, a Congressman played audio from the Parkland shooting.

Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island played audio from a video taken on the day of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

One audio plays a 9-1-1 dispatcher on the line with someone inside the school. In the next clip, a series of loud gunshots are heard firing into a classroom. There is screaming and one student is heard shouting "holy s**t, oh my God." More loud gunfire and screams are heard amid the blaring fire alarm in another clip.

This comes as Democrats push for tighter restriction on assault weapons. Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 in the Parkland shooting.

"There are more guns than people in this country, more mass shootings than days in the year," Cicilline said during the committee hearing. "This is a uniquely American problem, and assault weapons only magnify the epidemic."

On the first day of Cruz's penalty hearing, former MSD student Dylan Kraemer testified that he recorded a video during the shooting.

The gallery could not see the video, but the audio of screams and gunshots was blasted throughout the courtroom. Family members of victims were upset that the video was played in court and yelled "shut it off."

Shooting Victim Shows Jury His Gunshot Wounds

Anthony Borges was a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the shooting occurred.

He was evacuating down the stairs after the fire alarm went off. But then he saw the gunman, closed the door to the stairwell and started running.

Borges was shot in the leg and ran into a room.

"I just laid down there waiting for everything to stop," he said.

Everything was silent, he said, as he assessed his wound.

There was one other person in the room. Borges said he called out to her to see if she was okay, but she did not respond.

Borges then got out his cellphone. He called his mother then his best friend. Neither of them answered. Then he called his father and told him goodbye before dropping his phone.

Borges was shot five times; in the leg, in the back and in his armpit.

After identified himself in the photos of his injuries, Borges unzipped his jacket to show the jury his gunshot wounds.

The Judge overruled the defense's objection.

Cruz Plugs His Ears While Graphic Video Plays

The prosecution played another graphic video from the shooting in court.

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Veronica Steel took the stand to share her experience during the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

Her class was evacuating the building after the fire alarm went off. They did not know there was an active shooter in the school.

While walking down the stairwell, a rush of students suddenly pushed back. Then, more kids were running back up the stairs and into the hallway.

Steel said her emotions were "all over the place" and she did not know what was going on.

As she returned to her classroom, Steel hid behind her teacher's desk and shielded herself with her backpack.

Her teacher, Scott Beigel, was standing in the doorway, half inside the classroom and half in the hallway. Beigel was later shot and killed by the shooter.

While she was taking shelter, Steel recorded a video. Prosecutor Michael Satz played the video for the jury but the sound was heard by everyone in the courtroom.

In the video, the courtroom heard screams and whispers. Someone outside the classroom was yelling "let us in please."

Students could be heard crying and whispering in the classroom as police arrived to evacuate the students.

As students left the classroom, they could be heard crying and screaming "oh my God" as police officers yelled instructions to stay in line and keep moving.

While the audio played, Nikolas Cruz sat with his head down. He was plugging his ears with his fingers, as not to hear the video.

Brother Shares Photo of Meadow Pollack

Hunter Pollack retweeted a post from 2018 about his sister Meadow, who was among the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

Pollack's original tweet, dated June 16, 2018, included a photo of Meadow dressed in black pants and a black T-shirt. She had a crown on her head, which her brother identified in his tweet as her "senior crown."

"How beautiful was my sister Meadow," his tweet said. "I miss her so much. She wants us to #FIXIT."

Hunter Pollack retweeted his 2018 post on Wednesday afternoon, as the sentencing hearing for Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was underway.

His sister's name came up during witness testimony on Wednesday when Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Stacey Lippel was asked by the prosecution team to identify Meadow in a video.

Students Began Evacuating but Doubled Back

Students on the third floor of the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School started to evacuate after hearing a fire alarm the afternoon of February 14, 2018, but they doubled back when they realized there was a gunman in the building.

Stacey Lippel, a teacher who was instructing a creative writing class when the alarm began going off, was called by the prosecution in Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz's sentencing hearing to share her memories of the day. She took the witness stand Wednesday afternoon.

Lippel recalled following her students out of her classroom on the third floor and locking the door behind her. She and her students had previously heard some muffled sounds, but Lippel hadn't immediately identified them as gunshots.

Lippel said she hadn't believed the school was having a fire drill, because they'd had one earlier that day. She told lead prosecutor Michael Satz that she thought perhaps the fire alarm had been tripped by firecrackers or popping balloons, both of which she thought could have been brought into the school for Valentine's Day.

Lippel said the hallway outside her classroom and the classroom of another teacher, Scott Beigel, filled up quickly with students as they evacuated. Beigel was one of the 17 people who died in the shooting.

"We evacuated, because there was no reason not to evacuate," Lippel said.

As they were making their way down the hallway and toward the stairwell, Lippel began to hear screaming.

"I heard the screams before I heard anything else," she said. There was suddenly a "logjam" at the stairwell entrance, and then "the crowd started moving backwards, towards me."

As the crowd started moving in reverse, Lippel said she heard gunshots. "It was just very, very loud," she said.

She recalled hurrying back to her classroom, unlocking the door and ushering students inside.

"After what seemed like a long time but really wasn't, I saw the shooter emerge from the stairwell," Lippel said. "My memory is that he was standing in front of the stairwell, sort of splaying the rifle back and forth. And it was just shot after shot after shot. It just never stopped."

Lippel said she eventually decided to close her classroom door. While holding the door handle, she felt "a pain" and "a heat brush against my arm."

"As I'm doing that, I could see Scott from my peripheral, and so I yelled at him to close his door," she said.

Parkland Survivor David Hogg Removed From House Hearing

David Hogg, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who survived the Parkland shooting and is currently on the March for Our Lives board, was removed from a U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee markup hearing on Wednesday.

As the sentencing hearing for Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was underway in Florida, Hogg was in Washington, D.C. to attend the committee's markup hearing for proposed gun safety legislation.

In response to comments made by Republican legislators about where some of the weapons used in times of violence originate, Hogg spoke up from his seat in the gallery.

Hogg told the committee the guns "are coming from the United States of America."

"They aren't coming from Mexico," Hogg said, his voice raised to a yell. "They are not coming from Mexico. You are reiterating the points of a mass shooter, sir."

Hogg went on to say the legislators were "perpetuating violence" as a member of the security team took hold of his arm and led him out of the room. The rest of Hogg's comments were muffled as he was escorted out.

Hogg later tweeted a video showing the comments he made during the hearing and his removal.

"The guns in Parkland, Buffalo, El Paso, didn't come from Mexico. They came from the US, and the shooters were inspired by racist, anti-black, anti-immigrant manifestos that rhyme with GOP talking points," Hogg said in a message accompanying the tweet.

Parents of Victims Support Each Other In Court

The parents of the shooting victims continue to show support to each other in the the courtroom on the third day of the Parkland school shooting penalty trial.

Parents of Victims in Court
Annika Dworet and Mitch Dworet hug Linda Beigel Schulman and Michael B. Schulman after listening to former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ivy Schamis testify during the penalty phase of shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. MIKE STOCKER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The families greeted each other with hugs and offered gestures of support during witnesses testified, recalling the events of the shooting.

Parents of Victims Support Each Other
Max Schachter (L) and Fred Gutenberg listen as former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ivy Schamis testifies during the penalty phase of shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Mike Stocker / POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Annika and Mitch Dworet lost their son Nicholas in the shooting. They were emotional in the courtroom as they heard Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school teacher Ivy Schamis describe an interaction she had with Nick in class right before the shooting began.

Parents Cry During Testimony
Annika Dworet and Mitch Dworet listen as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school teacher Ivy Schamis describes the shooting in her classroom during the penalty phase of the trial for shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse on July 20, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mike Stocker - Pool/Getty Images

Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann was also seen speaking with families in the courtroom.

Parents Talk to Attorney
Parents with Assistant State Attorney

Victim Passed Out After She Was Shot Four Times

Before the lunch break, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student recalled passing out after she was critically wounded in the shooting.

Maddy Wilford was hiding behind the teacher, Ronit Reoven's, podium in room 1213 after she heard the first round of gunshots.

When the shots fired into her classroom, Wilford knew she was hit multiple times.

She said she looked around the room for someone to help her and saw blood all over the floor.

The fire alarm went off and the last thing she thought before passing out was that help must be on the way.

Wilford said she was in and out of consciousness until she fully woke up almost two days later

She was shot four times; in her right arms, in her right lung and on some ribs on her right side. Wilford underwent three surgeries on her abdomen.

While she is able to still use her arm and hand, she said she still has trouble breathing due to the gunshot wound to her lung.

Her classmate, Logan Mitchell, testified that he helped Wilford after bullets flew into the room.

Mitchell said that once Reoven got up to check the door and help injured students, someone handed him a jacket to help Wilford. He wrapped the jacket around Wilford's arm and on part of her abdomen after she had passed.

Lunch Break

Court is taking a lunch break and is scheduled to resume at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Teacher Used Baby Blanket As Tourniquet

Ronit Reoven, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher, recalled trying to help the students in her classroom who had been injured by gunfire during the 2018 mass shooting at her school.

Reoven, who teaches AP Psychology and Honors Geography, said she was teaching in room 1213 on the day of the shooting. The class was like any other day until gunfire erupted, she said.

Reoven described the scene as students instinctively ran to the wall across from the classroom door, which had a window panel. She redirected them to the opposite wall and they waited quietly until gunshots began firing into the room.

Once the sound of gunfire began receding, Reoven said she looked around her desk, where she had been taking cover, to assess the situation and saw some of her students had been hit.

"It was confirmed to me that the moans and the groans and the crying were from the kids that were shot," she said. "At that point, I knew that I had to try to do something to help the kids that were injured."

One of her injured students was crying and begging for water, which she supplied from a water bottle on her desk. A student hiding near the Keurig machine she kept in her classroom then tossed Reoven the baby blanket that Reoven said she used to cover the machine when it was not in use.

"I used that baby blanket to make a tourniquet for Ben's arm because he was bleeding out. So I just made a makeshift tourniquet and put it on his arm," Reoven said.

Teacher Helped Wounded Students
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ronit Reoven testifies during the penalty phase of shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Several of her students were shot, and one of her students, Carmen Schentrup, was killed in the shooting. Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the February 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A 12-person jury is to decide whether the now 23-year-old should receive the death penalty or a life sentence for what prosecutor Mike Satz called a "cold, calculated, manipulative and deadly" massacre MIKE STOCKER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Teacher Thought Shooting Was Surprise Drill

The next witness to take the stand Wednesday is Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Julietta Matlock.

She was teaching the personalization class, similar to a study hall, in room 1215 on the day of the shooting.

Matlock said the group of students in that class were like a family. She said they were all very friendly with each other and were a "good group of kids."

Among those students were Anna Martines, who testified Tuesday. Gina Montalto, Luke Hoyer and Martin Duque Anguiano were also part of that class. Those three students were in the hallway when the shooting began and were killed by gunfire.

When the shooting began, Matlock said she thought it was a drill.

She said she does not remember everything after the "three loud bangs" went off, but her students later told her that she told everyone to "get down."

Matlock remembers telling her students to stay calm and that it was just a drill, so everything would be fine.

Students were hiding under her desk and in the corners of the room.

The MSD staff was told in January, a month earlier, that the school would hold a random active shooter drill sometime in the near future. Matlock thought the school was trying to catch everyone off guard on Valentine's Day.

But after the glass in the classroom door shattered at her feet and the smell of sulfur filled the room, Matlock began to question if this was still just a drill.

She said she saw debris around the students' desk and in her mind she kept saying "is this a drill? is this not a drill?"

Then she heard gunfire and screaming coming from the hallway and the classroom next door.

After recounting the events of the shooting, Matlock began to cry when she was asked to identify Montalto, Hoyer and Duque Anguiano in photos.

Teacher Cries During Testimony
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Julietta Matlock wipes away tears while testifying during the penalty phase of shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Several of her students were shot, and three of her students, Luke Hoyer, Gina Montalto, and Martin Duque, were killed in the shooting. - Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the February 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A 12-person jury is to decide whether the now 23-year-old should receive the death penalty or a life sentence for what prosecutor Mike Satz called a "cold, calculated, manipulative and deadly" massacre. MIKE STOCKER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A Decade Has Passed Since Aurora Shooting

Wednesday marks 10 years since the deadly mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

The shooting took place during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012. Twelve people were killed, and dozens of others were injured.

In recognition of the 10-year anniversary, several gun safety organizations posted remembrance messages and photos of the victims.

The national grassroots organization Newtown Action Alliance, which formed after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in late 2012, posted photos of the 12 victims from the Aurora shooting on Twitter and listed their names.

Sandy Hook Promise also posted photos of the victims and tweeted, "Our hearts are with their families and the entire community, always."

Moms Demand Action mentioned its ongoing efforts to end gun violence in a tweet about the shooting.

Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence tweeted its support for the survivors, the Aurora community and the victims' family and friends.

"We will continue to #HonorWithAction by fighting for a safer future," the tweet said.

Teacher Cries While Identifying Victims

The prosecution called former Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Ivy Schamis to the witness stand on Wednesday morning.

Schamis said she worked at the school for nearly 20 years before leaving in 2020. She was teaching a History of the Holocaust class in room 1214 at the time of the school shooting on February 14, 2018.

Schamis recalled talking with her students about the 1936 Olympics in the moments before the shooting began. She said one of her former students, Nicholas Dworet, correctly answered a question before the class began hearing gunfire.

For "maybe a second" everyone in the classroom "stopped in our tracks" before they all began racing for a place to hide, Schamis said.

The students "tried to find cover wherever they could," Schamis said, noting that there was "a lot of furniture" in her classroom.

Schamis recalled the gunman shooting directly into the classroom and waiting with her students for 15 to 20 minutes before police arrived. During that time, she said her students were "quite mature" as they stayed as quiet as possible.

"I was unbelievably proud and they were incredibly brave," Schamis said. "No one said anything."

Schamis told lead prosecutor Michael Satz that she hadn't seen any injured students until officers arrived. At that point, she saw four of her students were injured.

Schamis said she hadn't seen the two students in her classroom who were killed in the shooting. Satz showed her images and asked her to identify them.

"That's my girl, Helena," Schamis said, tearing up as she identified Helena Ramsay. She wiped tears away with a tissue as she identified Dworet, the other student from her class who was killed.

Teacher Cries on Stand
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ivy Schamis describes the scene in her classroom during the penalty phase of the trial for shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse on July 20, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Two students in her class, Nicholas Dworet and Helena Ramsay, were killed. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shooting. Mike Stocker - Poo/Getty Images

Break

Court is taking a break and is scheduled to resume at 10:45 a.m. ET.

Victim's Father Supports Assault Weapons Ban

As the penalty hearing for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz continues, Congress is taking steps towards stricter gun control.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first markup on legislation to ban assault weapons Wednesday morning. According to the Committee, four gunman have killed a combine 42 people will assault weapons in the last two months alone.

The Committee will also consider the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the Parkland shooting, tweeted his support for this legislation. Cruz used an AR-15 assault rifle to murder 17 people and injure several others in the 2018 shooting.

Guttenberg said he would have liked to be in Washington today, but instead, he needs to be in the courtroom for Cruz's trial.

Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on "Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings."

The Committee will hear from several witnesses, including Highland Park, Illinois Mayor Nancy Rotering. She will discuss the mass shooting that occurred in her town during a Fourth or July parade earlier this month.

Shooting Victim Needed Four Surgeries

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Ashley Baez is the first witness of the day.

On the day of the shooting, Baez said she saw someone who looked "freaked out" in the hallway. Then, she say Nikolas Cruz come out of the stairwell firing gunshots.

Baez first ran to a bathroom to take cover, but tit was locked. She then moved to an unlocked classroom. She did not realize she was wounded until she was in the classroom.

While she was running away, Baez was shot in the leg. The bullet went through her right leg and hit her left leg. She needed four surgeries.

The prosecution showed Baez photos of her injures and then played a video from the shooting to the jury. Baez was excused while the jury finished watching the video.

Student Testifies in Trial
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Ashley Baez describes the gunshot wounds she sustained to her leg, during the penalty phase of the trial for shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse on July 20, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shooting. Mike Stocker - Pool//Getty Images

Watch: Day 3 Begins

The penalty phase of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz's case continues Wednesday.

Several witnesses were called to testify on Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of Cruz's sentencing hearings. Some of those witnesses were former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who were injured in the shooting on February 14, 2018.

The third day of hearings began at about 9:30 a.m. ET as the prosecution called up former student Ashley Baez as the first witness of the day.

The hearing is streaming live at this link and below.