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Jurors see Parkland school shooter's gun, hear in graphic detail about the damage it caused

Mike Satz holds gun
Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz, checks into evidence the weapon used in the MSD shooting during the penalty phase of shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, July 25, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.

Crime scene investigators and medical examiners detailed the victims' injuries in graphic detail during the sixth day of the death penalty trial.

Jurors saw the gun that was used to kill 17 people and injure 17 more for the first time during the Parkland school shooter's death penalty trial on Monday.

The trial entered its second week as graphic testimony from crime scene investigators and medical examiners continued.

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Gloria Crespo, a crime scene investigator at the time of the shooting, testified she found the AR-15 style rifle along with a vest used to hold magazines of ammunition on the third floor. The five magazines were loaded with 160 bullets.

Satz took the gun out of the evidence box and handed it to Crespo, who confirmed it was the same one she found on the third floor of the school. He then placed it behind him on the floor, muzzle pointed at jurors.

After a few minutes, defense lawyers asked Judge Elizabeth Scherer to order the gun be placed back in the evidence box and with the other evidence on a table by the judge.

Lead prosecutor Mike Satz moved the gun so that it pointed towards the prosecutor’s table.

Crespo continued afterwards, describing photos she took of five students and a teacher who died on the third floor.

The victims were all shot at close range multiple times. The photos were only shown to jurors, the judge, lawyers and Crespo, not on the two monitors that face the public gallery. Several family members of the victims are attending the trial and evidence deemed too graphic is not shown on these monitors.

Jurors also heard from Laura Zecchini, the Uber driver who dropped Nikolas Cruz off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

The most graphic testimony came from Wendolyn Sneed, who was a Broward medical examiner at the time of the shooting. She detailed the autopsies of Chris Hixon and Peter Wang.

Hixon was the athletic director who ran into the building that day to try to stop the shooter. He was 49. Wang was a 15-year-old student.

Hixon's wife, Debbi, sat in the courtroom while Sneed described the multiple gunshot wounds that killed her husband. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, turned to hold Debbi’s hand while Sneed described to jurors how the bullets tore through Chris Hixon's body.

Wang was shot while holding the door for other students to escape down the third-floor stairwell. Cruz shot him four times in the head, creating a “gaping exit” wound.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder. The jury will only decide if he is sentenced to death or life without parole. They have to vote 17 times, once for each of the victims.

His is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to reach trial. Most shooters are either killed by police or die by suicide.

For each death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life.

The jurors are told that to vote for death, the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances for that victim must, in their judgment, “outweigh” the defense’s mitigators.

Information from the Associated Press was used for this article.

Gerard Albert III is back in Broward, where he grew up, after reporting on crime and public safety in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and West Palm Beach. Albert is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University.