Nikolas Cruz’s guilty plea will set up a phase of punishment in which he would fight against the death penalty and hope for life without parole.
The 23-year-old is charged with 17 counts of first degree murder, 17 counts of attempted first degree murder and assaulting a prison guard nine months after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parc.
His lawyers said he would plead guilty to all offenses.
Pleas will come unconditionally and prosecutors still plan to seek the death penalty – but that will be decided by a jury and the trial has yet to be scheduled.
Cruz and his lawyers have long offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors have repeatedly rejected the deal, saying the case deserves a death sentence.
The shooting rocked Parkland, an upper-middle-class community outside of Fort Lauderdale with little crime, in 2018.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a campus of 3,200 students, is one of the top-ranked public schools in the state, and Cruz had long been a struggling student there.
Since preschool, he had been treated for emotional issues and was known to his neighbors for torturing animals.
He alternates between traditional schools and those for pupils in difficulty, joining the successful high school from the 10th year.
But his troubles remained and he was kicked out about a year before the attack after numerous incidents of unusual behavior and at least one brawl.
He started posting pictures of himself with guns online and made videos of threatening violence, including at school.
It was around this time that he purchased the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle that he would use for shooting.
When Cruz’s mother died of pneumonia in November 2017, leaving him and his brother orphans, he began to stay with friends by taking his 10 weapons with him.
Someone, worried about his emotional state, called the FBI a month before the shooting to warn officers he could kill people – but this information was never passed on to the agency’s office in southern Florida.
In the weeks leading up to the shoot, Cruz started making videos saying he was going to be the ‘Next School Shooter of 2018’ and in a bit before the massacre he said, ‘Today is the day. Today it all begins. The day of my massacre is about to begin. “
The shooting took place on Valentine’s Day, a few minutes before the end of the school day.
Cruz, who was 19 at the time, arrived on campus that afternoon in an Uber, assembled his gun in a bathroom, and then opened fire on students and staff.
Shooting sparked huge campaigns across the United States for changes to gun laws.
His trial was delayed by the COVID-19[feminine[feminine pandemic and the arguments between the prosecution and the defense on the evidence and testimony that should be presented to the jury.
Some families of the victims had expressed frustration at the delays, but the chairman of the group they formed said he was relieved that the case now seems closer to resolution.
“We just hope the system does it justice,” said Tony Montalto of Stand With Parkland. Her 14-year-old daughter, Gina, died in the shooting.
Preparations were underway to begin jury selection in the coming months, with Cruz and his lawyers’ decision to plead guilty unexpectedly.
He was due to stand trial next week for the attack on the Boward County jail guard.