The Latest: Florida school shooting suspect withdraws plea

Author: Associated Press
Published: Updated:
Nikolas Cruz. Photo: MSNBC/ MGN

The Latest on the deadly shooting at a Florida high school. (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

The lawyer for Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has filed court papers saying he is withdrawing a preliminary not guilty plea and will enter no plea at all.

Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill said in the filing Thursday that Cruz “stands mute” before the court. She said the not guilty plea was entered prematurely, before a grand jury indicted Cruz on 17 murder and 17 attempted murder charges in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The public defender’s office has said Cruz would plead guilty if prosecutors do not pursue the death penalty, but no decision has been announced on that.

The next step will be an arraignment for Cruz, where a judge likely would enter a not guilty plea for him to keep the process moving.


4:45 p.m.

Emergency calls from parents and students during the Florida high school massacre show 911 operators at first trying to grasp the enormity of the emergency and then calmly trying to gather information to assist arriving law enforcement officers.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office released audio of 10 of the 81 calls its 911 center received during the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead and its aftermath. Calls were coming in from students hiding in classrooms and from parents, who were getting calls from their children.

In one 16-minute call, a man relays information from a mother who is on another line with her daughter. The girl is in a classroom with just one other girl, but there is nowhere to hide. The 911 operator gets information and instructs them to be quiet in case the shooter is nearby. Her mom can be heard telling the girl, “I love you, I love you.”

After about 15 minutes, police officers enter the building and lead the girls out.


2:40 p.m.

Florida’s teacher union is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to veto $67 million that’s been set aside for a contentious program that would allow the training and arming of some people who work at schools.

The Florida Education Association on Thursday sent a letter to Scott saying the only people who should have guns in schools need to be trained law enforcement. The letter came a day after the Florida Legislature narrowly approved a sweeping gun and school safety bill, following a school shooting that killed 17 people.

The bill creates the guardian program that would enable school employees and many teachers to carry guns if they go through law enforcement training and their school districts agree to participate.

Scott has said several times that he’s against arming teachers but legislators approved the program anyway. Under Florida law, Scott can sign the bill but use his line-item veto power to eliminate the money set aside for the guardian program.


2:30 p.m.

The attorney for the family that took in Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz after his mother died says Cruz exchanged text messages with their son moments before opening fire.

Lawyer Jim Lewis said Thursday that Cruz asked the son of James and Kimberly Snead which classroom he was in and who his teacher was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School just before opening fire Feb. 14. The Snead son, a junior, wasn’t injured in the Feb. 14 shooting.

Lewis also said Cruz texted the son that he was going to a movie and then words like, “I have something big to tell you” but it was nothing bad. The last text was “Yo” from Cruz at 2:18 p.m.

Cruz faces 17 murder counts and 17 attempted murder counts in the shooting.


12:30 p.m.

Florida health officials say a 15-year-old student recovering from five gunshots he suffered in the Florida school shooting has been transferred to intensive-care unit after his condition worsened.

Broward Health spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Thursday that Anthony Borges’ condition got critical overnight.

His family’s attorney hasn’t responded to a request for information.

The student has filed notice that he’ll sue Florida authorities to seek money to cover the cost of his recovery.

Attorney Alex Arreaza has said the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the school resource officer, the school district and the principal failed to protect students from Nikolas Cruz, who’s accused of killing 17 people and wounding more than a dozen others Feb. 14.


12:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Florida on school safety legislation approved by state lawmakers.

Trump spoke Thursday at a Cabinet meeting. He says Florida “passed a lot of very good legislation last night.”

The measure would raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and create a waiting period on weapons sales. It also would create a so-called guardian program, enabling school employees and many teachers to carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and their school districts agree to participate.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t said if he’ll sign the bill.

Trump also says the White House is working on a plan to ban so-called “bump stocks” – which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire – and said efforts to enhance background checks are “moving along well” in Congress.


12 p.m.

Family members of those killed at a Florida high school are being asked to meet Gov. Rick Scott as he considers whether he’ll sign a sweeping gun and school safety bill.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was among the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said he was asked to stay in Tallahassee in order to meet with Scott on Friday. Pollack says other family members are also being asked to travel to the state Capitol.

The Florida Legislature this week passed a bill that raises the minimum age to purchase rifles, boost spending on mental health programs and creates a three-day waiting period. The bill also creates a new program that would allow some school personnel to be armed.

Scott has refused so far to say if he’ll sign the bill. Pollack said he hasn’t been told that Scott will approve the legislation – but he said he didn’t know what other reason the governor would want families to come to town.

John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, says the governor is “thoroughly reviewing” the bill.

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