Parkland shooter's AR-15 rifle shown to jurors at Florida penalty trial

The trial in Broward County Circuit Court will determine whether Cruz is sentenced to death or life without parole

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Parkland jurors Monday were shown the AR-15 rifle that Nikolas Cruz used to massacre 17 people nearly four years ago during one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Prosecutor Mike Satz presented the semi-automatic Smith & Wesson to Broward sheriff's Sgt. Gloria Crespo, who was testifying at the Florida penalty trial of 23-year-old Cruz.

Crespo identified the gun as the one she found on the landing of a third-floor stairwell after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Feb. 14, 2018.

The jurors stared intently as the rifle was carried to the front of the room.

Before fleeing, Cruz had ditched the gun and his protective vest on the stairwell, according to surveillance footage introduced at the trial in Broward County Circuit Court.

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A photo combination of prosecutor Mike Satz presenting the AR-15 in court Monday, and Nikolas Cruz sitting at the defense table. 

A photo combination of prosecutor Mike Satz presenting the AR-15 in court Monday, and Nikolas Cruz sitting at the defense table.  (Carline Jean/ Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The sergeant said that Cruz, then 19, had five gun magazines left in his vest containing a total of 160 bullets.

Investigators also found a New York police identification card in the vest pocket that had belonged to Cruz's late father Roger Cruz, who died of a heart attack when his son was 5. Prosecutors didn't indicate whether the elder Cruz had been a police officer.

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Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder for slaughtering 14 students and three staffers at the school during a seven-minute rampage, opening fire in classrooms and hallways. 

Prosecutors have said Cruz made a second pass at some victims, killing them while they lay injured on the ground.  

Jurors were also shown gruesome photos Crespo took of the bodies of five students and a teacher after Cruz shot them at close range. 

A photo combination showing Mike Satz display the AR-15 Nikolas Cruz used in the Parkland shooting, and Cruz in court July 25.

A photo combination showing Mike Satz display the AR-15 Nikolas Cruz used in the Parkland shooting, and Cruz in court July 25. (Carline Jean/ Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The images were not published to the gallery, where victims' families were watching the proceeding. 

On Friday a medical examiner testified that the most horrific wounds were caused when the high-speed bullets exited the victims' bodies – including one girl whose head was blown open and another teen whose forearm and bicep were ripped off. 

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The penalty trial will determine whether Cruz is sentenced to life without parole or death.

Lawyers for Cruz, who had been expelled from the school one year prior to the shooting, have argued that the gun, crime scene photos and other evidence are unfairly prejudicial and should not be introduced. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz tucks his sweater in while waiting for prospective jurors to enter the courtroom during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Florida April 26, 2022. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz tucks his sweater in while waiting for prospective jurors to enter the courtroom during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Florida April 26, 2022.  (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

But prosecutors successfully countered that such evidence is necessary to prove the murders had at least one aggravating factor: the crime was committed in a cruel or heinous manner or it endangered the lives of many people.

For the jurors to vote for death, they must unanimously find that at least one of the murders has an aggravating circumstance that outweighs the defense's arguments for mitigation. 

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The trial continues Tuesday before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.