FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Nikolas Cruz was in a Broward County courtroom, where he pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to all 17 counts of first-degree murder in the 2018 Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Cruz, 23, entered his plea after answering a long list of questions from Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer aimed at confirming his mental competency.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Parkland School Shooting
The confessed shooter told Scherer that he was nervous and anxious but understood what is happening regarding the plea. He said he had gone over the plea form with his lawyers.
Many family members of the victims had their eyes closed while Cruz said "guilty" out loud to each charge.
Families were noticeably emotional in the courtroom when hearing the names of their loved ones being called out count by count.
Cruz then told the family of the victims that he is very sorry and said he has to live with his actions every day. Cruz said in court that he knows they may not believe him but still expresses remorse.
Below is the full statement he read in court:
"I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day and if I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others, and I am doing this for you and I do not care if you do not believe me, and I love you and I know you don't believe me, but I have to live with this every day and it brings me nightmares and I can't live with myself sometimes, but I try to push through because I know that's what you guys would want me to do. I hate drugs and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets. I'm sorry and I can't even watch TV anymore, and I'm trying my best (to) maintain my composure and I just want you to know that I'm really sorry and I hope you give me a chance to try to help others if -- I believe it's your decision -- to decide where I go, whether I live or die. Not the jury's. I believe it is your decision, and I'm sorry."
Cruz was then handcuffed, fingerprinted and escorted out of the courtroom.
Scherer listened last Friday as Cruz stood before her and pleaded guilty to all four counts in that attack, waiving his right to a trial.
It was during the same hearing that Cruz's attorney announced his client's intention to change his plea to guilty on all 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
The guilty pleas will now set the stage for a penalty phase in which 12 jurors will determine whether Cruz should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Scherer said jury selection for the penalty phase will begin Jan. 4. A status hearing in the case is set for Tuesday.