1 of 5 | Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was formally sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2018 killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. File Photo via Broward County Sheriff/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Nikolas Cruz, the lone gunman who killed 17 people in a school shooting in Parkland, Fla.,was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer formally imposed a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Cruz, following the recommendation of the jury. Cruz avoided the death penalty due to Florida law requiring a unanimous vote from a jury for such a sentence. The jury voted 9-3 in favor of sentencing him to death.
Cruz, now 24 years old, was sentenced for 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, each carrying a life sentence.
Before hearing the sentence, the court heard more victim impact statements from survivors and family members of those killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Cruz killed 14 students and three faculty members when he went on a shooting spree on Valentine's Day four years ago.
"You shot me in the leg. If you looked me in the face, like I'm looking at you right now, you would see the scars on it from the hot shrapnel that was lodged into it," said Sam Fuentes, who was a student at the high school. "Do you remember after you sprayed my classroom with bullets, standing in the door, peering in to see the work you've done? Do you remember my little battered, bloody face looking back at you? I could have sworn we locked eyes."
Fuentes shared the way that day continues to affect her, even beyond the physical wounds. She said she will deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideations for the rest of her life.
Cruz, draped in an orange prison jumpsuit, had his face covered with a mask for the early portion of the hearing. A mother of one of the victims told him it was disrespectful to have his face covered as the victims and their families addressed him. Cruz was later seen without his face covered. He put his mask back on while being led out of the courtroom by authorities.
Victoria Gonzalez recalled her boyfriend Joaquin Oliver, who was killed by Cruz.
"I wish that you met Joaquin because he would have been your friend," she said. "He would have extended a hand to you. He would have loved you. I'm sorry that you never saw the love the world is capable of giving."
Scherer praised the victims and their families for enduring the legal process and seeking justice for more than four years, touting their resolve in the face of tragedy and hardship.
"I can tell you they will not be forgotten," she said of the victims. "If I could take the pain away or carry it for you for just five minutes so that you could breathe - I would."
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez took the stage at the Washington, D.C., march for 6 minutes and 20 seconds
, the length of time the shooting went on at the school on February 14. She also read the names of those who died. Photo by David Tulis /UPI | License Photo