National News

Taunting Words of Teenager: ‘You’ll All Know Who I Am. You’re All Going to Die.’

Posted May 30, 2018 8:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2018 9:00 p.m. EDT

With a chilling lack of emotion and a meticulous plan, the teenager charged with killing 17 people at the high school in Parkland, Florida, he once attended announced his goals on three short videos recorded on his cellphone before the shooting. “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am,” he said. “You’re all going to die.”

He mimicked the sound of video game gunfire — “pew, pew, pew” — and added: “Can’t wait.”

The accused gunman, a 19-year-old with a history of mental health and behavior problems, mentioned four times in just over two minutes of recordings released Wednesday the same aim that has motivated many youthful perpetrators of mass shootings across the country: He wanted his name to be remembered.

The first video was recorded Feb. 8, six days before the shooting. Another was filmed Feb. 11. A third was apparently made the day of the attack. “Today is the day,” he declared.

The video was made public by the Broward State Attorney’s Office, which has announced that it will seek the death penalty against Nikolas Cruz, who faces 34 counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder in the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Even before the shooting, the suspect had posted a comment on YouTube saying he wished to be a “professional school shooter.”

The videos, found on the accused gunman’s cellphone, will bolster prosecutors’ efforts to show that the killings were premeditated. The recordings show a laughing and sometimes giddy young man with what appears to be a cast on his arm and wearing a baseball cap, bragging about the horrific crime he said he was about to commit. Although he also discussed profound loneliness and feelings of worthlessness, the videos showed that he took the time to think out the violence, and was hoping to send his classmates running for their lives.

“All the kids in school will run in fear and hide,” he said. “From the wrath of my power, they will know who I am.”

The communiques bear some of the hallmarks of previous school shooters, many of whom have carefully studied the details of previous attacks and made attempts to emulate them. Researchers say that a desire for notoriety has motivated many such perpetrators.

“This is what he wants,” Aalayah Eastmond, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, wrote on Twitter. “Don’t let him trend.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime, 14, died in the massacre, posted on Facebook that he had read the transcript but had no intention of watching the video.

“He will not achieve his goals,” Guttenberg wrote. “He will simply rot and die in prison and even that is too good an outcome.”

In the recordings, the Parkland suspect starts by introducing himself and announcing: “I am going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is at least 20 people.”

He described the weapons he planned to use, and said, “I think I can do a good job.”

In a second video, he provides more detail, describing his plan to take an Uber to the school, walk up the stairs, get his “AR” from his bag — an apparent reference to the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the attack — and shoot as many people as possible in the main courtyard of the school. (The students were shot inside.)

In another recording, the only one in which he sounded as if he were reading from a prepared statement, he reflected on his own life, saying he lived in “seclusion and solitude.”

“I am nothing. I am no one, my life is nothing and meaningless,” he said. “With the power of the AR, you will know who I am.” He added that he had had enough of being told what to do, and was tired of being called “an idiot.”

Peter Langman, a psychologist and author of the book “School Shooters: Understanding High School, College and Adult Perpetrators,” said the accused gunman’s desire for notoriety was similar to other cases of mass casualties.

“What’s clear is this is very calculated, premeditated, with no obvious signs of emotion except excitement,” Langman said. “He shows no emotional distress. He doesn’t even come across full of rage or anguish. He’s just focused on how this is going to enhance his status, how he’s going to make his mark on the world.”

Langman said the “lack of empathy” and “callousness” were noteworthy.

The suspect’s lawyer, Gordon Weekes, the chief assistant Broward public defender, could not be reached for comment.

The chief prosecutor, Michael J. Satz, released the videos without a statement.

At least one student at the school said the videos suggest the accused gunman’s careful planning and signs of distress could have provided a warning sign, had anyone been watching. “The shooter from my school clearly was mentally unstable and was an obvious threat to himself & others,” a freshman at the school, Samantha Deitsch, wrote on Twitter. “This was easily preventable.”