Zachary Cruz broke down in tears as his brother Nikolas Cruz was arraigned Wednesday in last month’s massacre at a Florida high school.
As judge Elizabeth Scherer entered a not-guilty-plea on Cruz’s behalf, the 19-year-old suspected gunman stood silently with his head bowed.
Cruz’s younger brother, Zachary, became emotional during the hearing and was seen wiping away tears.
Family members of nine of the victims of the attach at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School were present for the arraignment. Some started crying, while one upset relative yelled out to Cruz that he was a ‘son of a b****’.
Nikolas Cruz (center) was arraigned on Wednesday in last month’s shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school
The 19-year-old suspected gunman kept his head lowered and remained silent during the hearing
A Florida judge entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Cruz during Wednesday’s hearing
Zachary Cruz (pictured), the younger brother of Nikolas Cruz, was seen crying during Wednesday’s hearing
At one point, Zachary was seen using a tissue to wipe away tears
A Broward County grand jury indicted Cruz on 17 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder after he opened fire inside the Parkland school on February 14, killing 17 of his former classmates and teachers.
Wednesday’s plea came after Cruz’s defense attorney said that the teen was standing mute on the charges, meaning he was declining to enter a plea.
Cruz, wearing a red jumpsuit and shackled at his waist and ankles, kept his head lowered during most of the hearing.
State prosecutors announced Tuesday they would be seeking the death penalty for Cruz, a decision Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott said he stands behind.
A trial date will be decided on April 27, Scherer said during Wednesday’s hearing.
Cruz’s court appearance coincided with a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence and to pressure Congress to approve gun control legislation.
Zachary Cruz (pictured) appeared to get emotional during the arraignment hearing for his brother
Fred Guttenberg is seen above watching as Cruz entered the courtroom. His daughter, Jaime, was killed in the February shooting
Family members of nine people killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School attended the hearing. 17 students and staff members were murdered in the February 14 shooting
One family member held a photo of one of the people killed in the attack
Thousands of students at hundreds of schools in New York, Washington, Alabama, California, Georgia, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Illinois, Florida and other states left their classrooms to attend the rallies.
A larger rally is planned for March 24.
Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich also testified Wednesday before the Senate Committee that the agency could have done more to prevent Cruz’s attack.
Last September, a person from Mississippi emailed the FBI warning that a person on YouTube with the name ‘Nikolas Cruz’ posted that he wanted to be ‘a professional school shooter’.
Bowdich said it was not investigated because the emailer’s identity could not be revealed.
The FBI also received a call in January from a woman who expressed concern over Cruz’s social media posts and warned that he wanted to kill people. That tip was also not investigated/
‘(The FBI) could have and should have done more,’ Bowdich said. ‘While we will never know if any such investigative activity would have prevented this tragedy, we clearly should have done more.’
The comments came as the House was set to vote on a measure Wednesday that authorizes $500 million over 10 years for grants to improve training and coordination between schools and local law enforcement.
Nikolas Cruz (center) was indicted on 17 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder after he opened fire at his former high school
Fred Guttenberg stands following Nikolas Cruz’s arraignment. His daughter, Jaime, was killed in the shooting
Family members cried during Wednesday’s arraignment hearing