MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Nikolas Cruz walked into a Broward County courtroom on Tuesday afternoon with one name and he walked out with a different one. It was a wish he'd dreamed of since February 14, 2018.
This is not the Nikolas Cruz who confessed to carrying out the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. This Nikolas Cruz was a teenager living at home in Sunrise, miles away from the school, on that day. Unfortunately, this Nikolas was burdened with the same name and the same spelling as the confessed Parkland shooter. It's been a challenging 19 months for him and his family.
During that time, Nikolas feared the police, who showed up at his home on the day of the shooting. He dealt with strange looks from people when he told them his name and tried to avoid saying his name. His mother, Ivonne Moran, said her son, who has Asperger's Syndrome, regressed. For months, they considered asking the court to legally change his name and over the summer they filed the formal petition.
On Tuesday afternoon, in a court hearing that lasted just a few minutes, Cruz got his new name and believes the benefits will last a lifetime.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Cruz. How are you?" said Broward Judge Tarlika Navarro, as Cruz sat quietly alone in front of a microphone at a table in the courtroom.
Minutes later she asked the important question, "Why are you changing your name, sir?"
Nikolas was prepared with a response.
"I carry the same name as the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Jacob Cruz," he told the judge.
Judge Navarro quickly provided Nikolas the answer he wanted.
"I'm gonna go ahead and grant your request," she told him.
His mother, Ivonne Moran, wiped away a tear as she walked up to hug her son after the hearing. For Nikolas and his family, it feels like a rebirth.
"That stigma with the name is gonna be gone," she said.
Nikolas is proud to tell everyone his new identity.
"What is your new name?," a reporter asked him.
"Nikolas Rene Moran," he said, proudly.
"How does it feel to have that name now?" a reporter asked.
"Great," he said. "It is really great."
Nikolas is taking the last name of his stepdad who he says raised him. His mom believes the name change will open doors for Nikolas without troublesome questions and comparisons to the other Nikolas Cruz.
"He can apply for college. He can say his name with pride and without being shy about it," Ivonne said. "It's just gonna change him completely. Many blessings are coming for him."
Nikolas sees a future ahead defined by his own choices and not those of someone with whom he once shared a name. He and his mother plan to change over his personal information and then Nikolas wants to apply to attend Broward College and hopes to eventually become a historian. Changing his name was the first step in his new life.
"I want to apply for college and live on my own and enjoy life," he said.
"That would be hard to do with the name Nikolas Cruz, right?" a reporter asked.
"Yes, it will be," Nikolas Moran said.
"It'll be much easier now with Nikolas Moran?" a reporter asked.
"Yes, it will be," he said, confidently.
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