After carrying out a massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead, gunman Nikolas Cruz sat next to the brother of a victim at McDonald’s, surveillance footage played in court showed.
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student John Wilford, whose sister Maddy Wilford was seriously injured in the 2018 shooting, took the stand on Thursday.
The trial comes after Cruz pleaded guilty last October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. The Parkland massacre launched the student-led movement March For Our Lives, which has pushed for gun safety legislation across the country.
On the fourth day of Cruz’s sentencing trial, Wilford testified that he had walked to a nearby McDonald’s after evacuating the chaotic scene at the school to wait for his mother to pick him up. Cruz sat with him at his table and asked if he could get a ride – which Wilford declined.
Unbeknownst to Wilford, Cruz had just slaughtered 14 students and three adults and was initially able to leave the crime scene at the school by blending in with students fleeing campus.
Immediately after the shooting, Cruz went to a Walmart and bought a drink at a Subway there before heading to a McDonald’s, where Wilford was sitting inside.
“He just sat down next to me,” Wilford, who was a freshman, said in his testimony. “I didn’t think much of it. I was panicked. I was just trying to get back home.”
Wilford did not know who Cruz was and assumed he was a fellow student because of his uniform. Wilford later discovered that Cruz shot his sister, 15, at least three times.
As Wilford was leaving to meet his mother who had arrived, Cruz asked for a ride.
“He was pretty insistent on it, and I said no,” Wilford said. “I was just trying to get home, my sister wasn’t answering her phone, I was nervous, I was panicked. I also had a bad gut feeling about it.”
Surveillance video of the restaurant encounter was shown during Wilford’s testimony. Cruz was at the McDonald’s for less than a minute before he walked out. He was arrested about 40 minutes later.
Prosecutors presented on Thursday more witnesses focused on Cruz’s actions following the shooting, including managers of both the Subway and McDonald’s. The police officer who arrested Cruz also testified.
Officers describe what they saw that day
Closing out the first week of the sentencing trial for Cruz, prosecutor Mike Satz called three law enforcement officers to the stand on Friday to testify about what and who they saw inside the school when they responded to the mass shooting.
Broward County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Richard Van Der Eems testified that when he arrived on the scene, he saw smoke and dust and a child dead on the ground.
He described checking and clearing out classrooms, and said he saw student Anthony Borges all the way at the end of the hallway trying to say something and that “he kept trying to raise his hand up so we could see that he was alive.”
Borges survived being shot five times and also testified earlier this week, taking off his sweatshirt to show jurors his scars. The then 15-year-old was shot while shielding his peers from the gunman. He had barricaded a door with his body and was shot through the door.
Jurors were also shown images from Van Der Eems’ body camera, which shows bodies he identified as Cara Loughran and Meadow Pollack, two of the students who died that day.
Coral Springs Police Department detective David Alfins testified about how he saw a vest and a rifle on the third-floor landing near Jaime Guttenberg’s body.
“I checked her vital signs for breath and for pulse, I found none,” he said.
Guttenberg was 14 years old when she died. Fred Guttenberg, Jaime’s father, was sitting in the court gallery staring down during Alfins’ testimony about his daughter.
Alfins also spoke about how student Joaquin Oliver’s dead body was blocking the bathroom door and how he had to move his body to make sure no one was inside the bathroom. He also said he saw student Peter Wang, another victim who died, “slumped down on the ground.”
More images of these victims were shown to the jury before the court recessed for lunch.
Prosecutors have asked a panel of 12 jurors to sentence Cruz to death, while his defense attorneys have asked for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The trial, which is likely to last months, will delve more deeply into Cruz’s personal history and feature accounts from victims’ families and those who witnessed the massacre.
CNN’s Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.