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Just before the Parkland school massacre in February, a student on his way to the bathroom ran across gunman Nikolas Cruz in a stairwell, pulling a gun out of large black duffel bag.
“He told me you better get out of here. Something bad is about to happen,” the student told Broward detectives in a witness statement released by prosecutors on Friday afternoon.
The student, 15-year-old Chris McKenna, rushed away and found assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who whisked the teen away on his golf cart and returned to Building 12 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to confront Cruz. Feis was shot dead.
Prosecutors released the statement, which identifies the witness only as C.M, as part of the ongoing criminal case against Cruz. The teen identified Cruz as the shooter, and is now a key witness against the defendant.
The state also released the sworn statement of school security monitor David Taylor, who saw Cruz with the duffel bag in the hall after another security monitor reported the teen striding into the freshman building. Taylor hid in a closet when the gunfire erupted moments later.
“I heard several quite a few gunshots actually after that,” Taylor told police. “Then I heard then it went quiet for something feeled like forever but it was probably 30 seconds. And then I heard a double tap close to me it was right above me or right below me or right outside my door,” Taylor said in the statement; the document identifies him only by his initials.
Since the shooting, Taylor has been reassigned to another school. Like other security employees at the high school, Taylor knew Cruz.
“He’s been in trouble. Not like fights or anything but like, just odd stuff. Like swastikas all over his backpack and on his folders and stuf,” Taylor told police.
Their stories are not new, having been told in previous press accounts, but offer firsthand accounts given to investigators within less than a day of the Feb. 14 massacre.
Cruz is facing the death penalty for shooting and killed 17 people, and wounding 17 more, at the high school campus on Feb. 14. His defense lawyers have offered to have him plead guilty in exchange for life in prison; prosecutors are pressing forward in seeking execution.
He walked into a campus building, armed with an AR-15 rifle, systemically gunning down students and staffers. He was captured soon afterward after escaping by blending in with terrified students fleeing the school.
Cruz had a long and troubling history of emotional outbursts, threats to fellow students and fascination with weapons and racist imagery. He had been kicked out of Douglas High, and had been bounced around to various alternative schools.
The teen confessed to homicide detectives. Most of his confession is exempt from public release, although the judge is considering whether to seal the entire video-recorded interview. Another hearing on the issue is set for July 16.
The worst school shooting in Florida history led to a wave of student activism and political outcry over easy access to powerful weaponry. In the wake of the shooting, Florida lawmakers imposed new restrictions on gun sales.
The carnage also led to scrutiny on law-enforcement response to the active shooter; school campus deputy Scot Peterson was roundly vilified for failing to enter the building and confront Cruz.