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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Susannah Bryan

Witness says Parkland gunman had trouble making friends and controlling his behavior

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A reluctant witness took the stand Tuesday in the sentencing trial of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz.

“I do not wish to be here (but) I was subpoenaed,” Jessica Clark Flournoy, a mental health counselor who treated Cruz for two years while he was in middle school, told the court.

Flournoy described Cruz as an anxious, nervous boy who had trouble concentrating and making friends during his time at Westglades Middle School in Parkland.

“He did not have a lot of confidence in his abilities,” Flournoy testified under questioning from assistant public defender Tamara Curtis. “He was sad about it.”

Cruz was so afraid of other kids seeing his grades, he’d crumple up the paper as soon as it was put on his desk, she said.

“He did want to have friends,” she said. “He wanted to be liked by his peers. He struggled with making friends.”

He also struggled with controlling his own behavior, Flournoy said. He’d blurt out inappropriate comments in class and eventually was assigned an escort to take him from class to class.

One day in 2013, he was sent home early after ripping apart the faucet in the boys’ bathroom. Soon after, he was entered into the PROMISE program, a disciplinary program for misbehaving students.

The PROMISE program has come under criticism for allowing children to commit crimes without dealing with police or accumulating a record that could be used later to keep them from owning a gun.

Cruz, now 23, went on to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

He faces the death penalty for each of the 17 murders he committed. Defense lawyers are introducing testimony about Cruz and his mental health in a bid to convince jurors he was in a lifelong battle for control of his own behavior.

A jury’s unanimous vote is required to sentence Cruz to death; otherwise he will be sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutor Jeff Marcus told Flournoy that three days before Cruz went on his shooting rampage at Stoneman Douglas, he made a video predicting he’d soon be famous. In the video, he said: “You’re all going to die. Can’t wait.”

Flournoy said she was not aware Cruz had made such a video.

She had also not been made aware of his fascination with guns. Or the fact that he drew pictures in class of naked stick figures showing body parts and people shooting each other with guns.

Earlier on Tuesday, the jury heard from Finai Browd, a friend of the Cruz family, in a video testimony recorded before the trial started. Some of the recording was played for the jury on Monday, but not all.

Browd was not surprised when Nikolas was diagnosed with ADHD.

“You had to be a moron not to know,” she said. “He was very hyperactive. He couldn’t sit still for two seconds.”

Browd’s children often played with Nikolas and his brother Zachary.

Her daughter was 7 and Nikolas was 9 when he touched her inappropriately, Browd testified. He tried to put his hand in her shirt and tried to watch her shower.

“I was not around at the time,” she said. “I was in New York burying my father-in-law.”

Browd and Lynda Cruz, who adopted Nikolas and his brother, had a falling out in early 2010, she said.

Browd had a heart attack in September that year and Lynda Cruz and the boys came to see her in the hospital.

That was the last time she saw them, Browd said.

The trial resumes Wednesday afternoon.


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