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After Court Hearing, Defense Attorney Calls Cruz "A Broken Human Being, A Broken Child"

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, made his first appearance in a courtroom on Thursday.

The 19-year-old, accused in the third worst school shooting in the U.S., has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Nikolas Cruz Bond Court
Accused Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Crus in bond court in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 15. 2018. (CBS4)

The court appearance was not long, and Cruz only spoke once.

When County Court Judge Kim Theresa Mollica asked if he was Nikolas Cruz, he responded, "yes ma'am."

After Cruz was read his rights, Assistant State Attorney Shari Tate then explained why they were seeking no bond.

His "premeditated design" of going to the school with an AR-15 rifle and additional ammunition, shooting and killing 17 people and then fleeing the scene.

"The state is seeking a no bond hold on the defendant," Tate said.

Defense attorney Melisa McNeil said they would not be making any arguments and deferred to future court proceedings.

"We will formally evoke Mr. Cruz's right to remain silent, and that notification relates to any law enforcement agencies that are involved in this case, both at the state and federal level," McNeil said.

The judge then ordered Cruz to be held with no bond.

During the hearing, the only time Cruz raised his head was the one time he spoke to the judge.

Outside the courtroom, McNeill gave some insight into the defendant.

"He's a broken human being," she said. "He's a broken child."

McNeill, a mother and South Florida resident, said the case is emotional for everyone.

"I had to have the exact same conversation that every parent in Broward had to have with their children this morning, then I had to walk and meet with him," McNeill said. "I'm fully aware of the impact this has on the people who live here."

Gordon Weeks is also on the defense team.

He was brought to tears multiple times while speaking with CBS4's Ted Scouten about the loss to the community, while adding that Cruz understands those losses.

"He recognizes, he's deeply said," Weeks said of Cruz. "He is dealing with the shock of all this that's going on."

While finding the case emotionally difficult, the defense says Cruz suffers from autism, depression and has significant psychological problems, enough that he's possibly suicidal.

"He is on suicide watch," Weekes said. "The child is deeply troubled and he has endured significant trauma that stems from the loss of his mother."

Cruz was a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but was expelled and transferred to another Broward County School, superintendent Robert Runcie said Thursday.

A noon prayer vigil for the victims was held at the Parkridge Church in Coral Springs.

Another vigil will be held at 2:30 p.m. at Pine Trails Park, at 10555 Trails End, Parkland.

A sunset vigil will also be held in the park beginning at 6 p.m.

CBS Miami's David Dwork contributed to this story. 


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