Parents of Parkland high school mass shooting victims sobbed through testimony today detailing how their children were ‘ripped apart’ by shooter Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15.
Dr. Terril Tops – the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Luke Hoyer and Joaquin Oliver, and football coach Aaron Feis – described in graphic detail the extent of the injuries he saw.
In attendance were the family members of the victims, including Hoyer’s parents, and Oliver’s mother and daughter. The Hoyers could be seen wiping away heavy tears as their son’s death was described, and Oliver’s mother had to leave the courtroom.
The excruciating testimony came during the ninth day of Cruz’s sentencing hearing as prosecutor’s seek the death sentence and defense angles for a life sentence.
In October Cruz, now 23, plead guilty to the 17 murders he committed at the Florida high school in 2018, and also plead guilty to 17 counts of attempted murder.
Florida law requires a unanimous recommendation of death from the jury for a capital punishment sentencing.
Gena Hoyer, with her husband Tom at her side, wipes away tears during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz
Patricia Padauy Oliver is comforted as a witness testifies to her son’s fatal injuries during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz
Nikolas Cruz and Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam stand as jurors enter the courtroom during the penalty phase of his trial
Tom and Gena Hoyer could be seeing holding each other tightly and sobbing as Dr. Tops described how their son was gunned down by a pair of bullets as he walked to class through a hallway at the beginning of the shooting.
Luke was first struck by a bullet that entered him through both the jaw and the neck, causing blood to fill his lungs and effectively ‘drown’ him.
‘A significant amount of bleeding, the bleeding went into his right chest cavity and started compressing his lungs, by basically drowning his and compressing his lungs,’ he said.
Tops noted that first bullet was more than enough to kill the 15-year-old boy, but that Cruz fired a second round into him which fractured his pelvis.
Dr. Terril Tops – the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Luke Hoyer and Joaquin Oliver, and football coach Aaron Feis
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz looks on at the defense table during the penalty phase of his trial
The medical examiner then described the injuries of Feis, the 37-year-old football coach and school security guard who was gunned down as he shielded students from Cruz’s wrath.
Tops said Feis’ ribs were fractured by a bullet, with one being ‘obliterated’ by the round. Tops also said Feis’ liver and pancreas were ‘obliterated’ by his wounds.
The doctor then described the graphic wounds the 17-year-old Oliver suffered, who was shot at close range outside a bathroom by Cruz.
Tops said he found multiple severe on Oliver, including injuries to his hands, ‘large gaping’ holes in his left leg, and a grisly wound to his head.
Jurors were shown photos from Oliver’s autopsy as Tops described the head wound which he said looked ‘like a cherry bomb inside one’s head.’
Inconsolable during the testimony, Oliver’s mother was led out of the courtroom by her daughter.
Tom Hoyer hugs Patricia Padauy Oliver during a break in the penalty phase of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz’s trial
Gena Hoyer, with her husband, Tom, at her side, wipes away tears during the penalty phase of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz’s trial
The sentencing trial has seen testimonies delivered from a wide array of witnesses, such as students, police officers, and even the Uber driver who brought Cruz to the school just before the February 2018 shooting.
Among those to testify was Michael Morrison, the owner of Sunrise Tactical Supply – the since shuttered gun shop that Cruz visited in 2017 to purchase the murder weapon.
Examined by prosecutors last Tuesday, Morrison – who closed the Coral Springs store shortly after the shooting – described the day that Cruz showed up to his shop asking to purchase the rifle.
He recounted on the witness stand how he and a co-worker both handled Cruz’s sale, asking him to fill out a federal form and undergo a five-dollar background check meant to weed out prior criminal offense from prospective purchasers.
The form Cruz was required to fill out contained questions about whether he used drugs, had been convicted of a felony, or had been determined by a court to be mentally incapable of operating a firearm or been involved in domestic violence.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz speaks with sentence mitigation specialist Kate O’Shea, a member of the defense team
Michael Morrison, the former owner of Sunrise Tactical Supply, describes the gun he sold to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz
Cruz answered ‘no’ to all of the queries listed in the document – which, along with the gun, was used as an exhibit by prosecutors in the Broward County courtroom.
The prosecution proceeded to ask Morrison – who abandoned the firearms business after the shooting and now works as a paving crew leader in Tamarac – his procedure for a typical transaction involving a firearm at the now shuttered shop.
‘Every customer is engaged in conversation – we look for any red flags or signs why the sale should not happen,’ said Morrison, who had run the store set in a Coral Springs strip mall for more than four years before he was forced to close.
When district attorneys asked if he engaged in such a conversation with Cruz, who had no criminal record at the time of the purchase but an extensive history of questionable mental health, he said he had.
‘I had a brief conversation I believe on pickup, as I stated in my deposition – I came out and asked him, ‘What are you going to do with the rifle?”
Morrison went on: ‘The reply was, ‘I go shooting with my friends on the weekend. I just want my own stuff.”