Parkland Teacher Brittany Sinitch Broke Down In The Courtroom Tuesday As She Recalled How Her students Were In The Middle Of Writing Romeo And Juliet Valentine s Day Cards To Each Other When She Heard A Loud Bang Echo From The Hallway
Parkland teacher Brittany Sinitch broke down in the courtroom Tuesday as she recalled how her students were in the middle of writing 'Romeo and Juliet' Valentine's Day Cards to each other when she heard a loud bang echo from the hallway.
'We were having so much fun until I heard what I described as just the loudest noise you could possibly imagine,' Sinitch told a courtroom filled with families of the slain students.
Witnesses present when school shooter Nikolas Cruz entered Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are painfully reconstructing for jurors the the 2018 Valentine's Day massacre that left 14 students and three staff members dead.
Sinitch said that immediately after hearing the first shots ring out she ran to turn off the classroom lights and urged her students to hide away from the viewpoint of the classroom window door.
'Almost instantly, I called 911,' she said.
'They couldn't hear me over the sound of the gunshots; it was so loud,' she said on the stand.
Brittany Sinitch, a teacher at the school, was in the middle of a 'Romeo and Juliet' Valentine's Day themed activity when gunshots went off on the first floor of the three story building
Audience members wept hearing testimonies from witnesses.
Some excited the room at the sound of video audio of the shooting echoing in the courtroom
Lead prosecutor, Michael J. Satz, played audio from Sinitch's 911 call in the courtroom. Gunshots can be heard going off in the background as Sinitch urgently attempted to tell the dispatcher what was happening.
The 911 dispatcher couldn't hear Sinitch's plea as her audio was muffled before being disconnected.
Sinitch was one of three witnesses present in the three-story Freshman building that spoke at Cruz's penalty trial at the Broward County Courthouse on Tuesday.
The trial is expected to last for several months, giving ample time for witnesses recount the harrowing day so a jury can determine whether Cruz will face life in prison or the death penalty.
Nikolas Cruz entered Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 with the intention of killing multiple people, according to lead attorney Michael J.
Danielle Gilbert, a junior at the time of the shooting, was sitting in her psychology class when she recalled hearing the gunfire explode from the hallways.
'We were like sitting ducks,' Gilbert said.
'We had no way to protect ourselves.'
Gilbert's immediate reaction was to take out her phone and start recording the scene unfold.
The jury was shown videos from inside Gilbert's classroom beginning with a girl curled up under the teacher's desk and others behind it.
Multiple gunshots are fired through the classroom door window, hitting four students, one fatally.
Danielle Gilbert, a junior at the time of the shooting, recalled hiding in her Psychology classroom.
Gilbert took video footage of the incident that left four of her classmates injured -one fatally
Shooter Nikolas Cruz held his hands over his face at the sound of gunshots and screams heard in the multiple videos played by the prosecutors. Only during the videos did Cruz show emotion
The fire alarm can be heard going off as a wounded male student screams, 'someone help me.'
Other students are heard whispering amongst each other before hearing the voices of police officers from the hallway.
'They're coming, they're coming, we're OK,' a student whispers.
SWAT officers enter the classroom with their riffles seeking the injured as two wounded students are carried out and a dead student lies on the floor.
The students were told to run out of the classroom, where they passed two bodies on their way to the parking lot.
Gilbert sobbed as she re-watched the video in the courtroom.
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Only the witnesses, jury, and prosecutors could view the images - the gallery, however, could clearly hear the audio. Some spectators held each other in tears at the sound of the gunfire and screams while others ran out of the room in horror.
More cellphone footage was shown to another witness, Dylan Kraemer, who was also a junior at the time.
'I looked over and two people were dead, and multiple people were shot,' Kraemer said while recalling seeing Cruz with his AR-15 rifle.
Audio of loud gunshots and yelling could be heard in the courtroom before someone in the gallery shouted, 'shut it off!' The unidentified speaker was the relative of a girl who died in that classroom, AP reported.
Satz, the lead prosecutor, prepared the jury for what they would witness of the massacre on Monday, and in the weeks to come.
'You will see the defendant on the first floor, fire a rifle, shoot and kill nine students,' Satz explained.
'You will see the defendant fire his rifle six times on the second floor and you will see him shoot and kill five students on the third floor and a teacher on the third floor.'
Lead prosecutor of the case, Mike Satz, presented evidence to the jury on Monday.
He questioned multiple witnesses and showed videos of the incident from different classrooms
Trial attendees, including the family members of some of the victims, wiped their tears as Satz explained the deadly scene as students attempted to run for their lives before being shot by Cruz.
Cruz shot the victims multiple times and went back to fire more shots into wounded students, killing them.
One of the last victims, Peter Wang, was shot 13 times on the third floor.
Cruz fired 139 rounds before leaving his gun and cell phone on the third-floor stairway and fleeing the scene.
'The murders were cold, calculated, and premeditated,' Satz said.
A jury of seven men and five women will determine Cruz's fate.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer is presiding over the trial at the Broward County Courthouse.
The trial is expected to last months
The Parkland school massacre is the deadliest to reach trial in U.S. history. Other mass shooters have either killed themselves after following out their plan or been killed by police gunfire.
Cruz was 19-years-old at the time of the shooting with a history of mental health and behavioral issues.
He was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the 2016-17 year.
On Valentine's Day 2018, Cruz packed up his legally purchased and concealed semiautomatic AR-15 rifle - and ordered an Uber driver to drop him off at the school.
He entered the building with the rifle and multiple magazines minutes before classes ended for the day.
Surveillance video captured Cruz, then 19, stalking the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018
Medical personnel tend to a victim outside of Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb.
Last month, Cruz blamed pot for his actions, claiming in an apology to victim's families, saying: 'The US would do better if everyone stopped smoking marijuana.'
'I hate drugs and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets,' he added.
Cruz has previously admitted to smoking a lot of marijuana and had also taken the prescription tranquilizer Xanax.
He said he attempted to intentionally overdose on the substances.
Last fall, he pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder.
The trial is expected to stretch into the fall, after being delayed about two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defense lawyers are expected to give their opening statements in the coming days.
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