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Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students describe terrifying moments of Parkland massacre

Christopher McKenna recounts encounter with Nikolas Cruz before shooting began
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz listens as his court during the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Posted at 11:54 AM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 12:31:58-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The jury heard more emotional testimony Tuesday as the sentencing trial for convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz continues.

Former students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shared their gripping and heartbreaking accounts of what happened the day 17 people were killed and 17 others were injured on Feb. 14, 2018.

The trial finally began Monday in a Broward County courtroom and is expected to last four months.

Christopher McKenna, a freshman at the school at the time, took the stand and told the jury that he left his English class to go to the bathroom that day.

He said he gave a high-five to two of his fellow students, Luke Hoyer and Martin Duque, as they crossed paths in the first-floor hallway.

McKenna then described seeing Cruz in a stairwell armed with a rifle.

"Get out of here. Things are about to get bad," McKenna testified that Cruz told him.

Cruz would fatally shoot Hoyer and Duque.

McKenna stood up in court and identified Cruz as the person he saw that day in the stairwell, pointing at him in court.

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Christopher McKenna points out the defendant during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 19, 2022. McKenna was the first student to encounter Cruz before his rampage.
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Christopher McKenna points out the defendant during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 19, 2022. McKenna was the first student to encounter Cruz before his rampage.

Alexander Dworet took the stand and said he heard "loud bangs" and the end of his English class but thought it might be the school's marching band.

Dworet said he recalled feeling a hot sensation on the back of his head and said he knew he was in danger.

"I remember feeling trickling down the back of my head and onto my chest," Dworet said. "I touched the back of my head, and then my hand was all bloody.”

Dworet then described watching his classmate, Alex Schachter, take his final breaths.

His brother, Nicholas Dworet, was also shot and killed in the rampage.

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Alexander Dworet describes the gunshot injuries he sustained to the back of his head. He was testifying during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Alexander Dworet describes the gunshot injuries he sustained to the back of his head. He was testifying during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. His brother, Nicholas Dworet was also shot, and was killed in the rampage.

WATCH LIVE: Day 2 of Parkland shooter's sentencing trial

A tearful Dara Hass took the stand and described hearing the gunshots tear into her classroom on that day while she was teaching English, killing some of her students and injuring others.

She testified that at first, she thought the shots were a drill but said her students were screaming and shouting.

She later saw one of her students, Schachter, was injured and knew it wasn't a drill, later calling 911.

"It was hazy, and you could smell the sulfur from the gun," Hass said. "Debris was flying across the room. The students were crying; so many students had been injured."

Dara Hass, English teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School testifies, July 19, 2022
Dara Hass, an English teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School testifies in court on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

Hass recalled seeing two of her other students, Alania Petty and Alyssa Alhadeff, very injured in her classroom, both of whom later died from their injuries.

When police arrived and evacuated her students, Hass said she did not want to leave but officers convinced her.

"I wanted to stay with the students who couldn't go," she said.

Samantha Fuentes, a former student at the school, recalled being in her Holocaust studies classroom when the shooting started.

She described sitting near the classroom's front door and hearing a couple of shots from the hallway, which prompted everyone to freeze.

Fuentes said more shots were fired, which pierced a window of the classroom. She recalled how she and her classmates went to the back of the room as more shots continued to enter the room. That's when she described seeing the gunman.

Samantha Fuentes, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, describes in court on July 19, 2022, being shot
Samantha Fuentes, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, describes in court on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, being shot during the massacre on Feb. 14, 2018.

"Unknowingly, I peeked my head past the podium to look at the door. That is where I saw Cruz standing there after he had finished firing," Fuentes said. "He was standing at the window at the door."

She then saw that two of her classmates were shot dead, identified as Nicholas Dworet and Helena Ramsay.

Fuentes then noticed that she had also been shot and had holes in her pants with blood running from the top of her forehead down to her chest and in her eyes and hair.

Fuentes suffered a gunshot wound just above her left knee and had other shrapnel injuries. Fuentes said she hasn't fully recovered from her wounds and still has pain from shrapnel still lodged throughout her body.

Throughout much of Tuesday, Cruz barely looked up, often spotted with his head in his hand looking down.

Day 1 Testimony

Jurors on Monday heard heart-wrenching testimony from a student and teacher from the high school who remembered the violence that unfolded on Valentine's Day four years ago.

Witness Danielle Gilbert cringed and shed tears on the witness stand. She was a junior at the Parkland school when the shooting occurred.

Cellphone video clips that Gilbert recorded inside the classroom were shown to the jury. Audio included multiple gunshots as a fire alarm sounded.

Danielle Gilbert, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, testifies in court on July 18, 2022, for the sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz.
Danielle Gilbert, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, testifies in court on July 18, 2022, for the sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz.

"We were sitting like sitting ducks," Gilbert said. "We had no way to defend ourselves."

Her story was similar to Brittany Sinitch, a teacher who took the stand and recalled the exact moment when a Valentine’s Day project with her students turned to darkness.

"We were having so much fun until I heard what I described as the loudest noise you could possibly imagine," Sinitch said.

She recalled that she quickly shielded her students from danger. Her frantic call to 911 was inaudible because the gunshots were so loud.

State witness Brittany Sinitch, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, cries during direct examination in the penalty trial of Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, July 18, 2022.
State witness Brittany Sinitch, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, cries during direct examination in the penalty trial of Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, July 18, 2022.

Families of the victims who were in court became overwhelmed hearing the testimony and video that was played in court.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, calling Cruz's actions cold and calculated.

Lead prosecutor Mike Satz highlighted a video that Cruz recorded days before the shooting.

Max Schachter reacts as video and audio are played from inside a classroom as bullets are fired into it during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, July 18, 2022. His son Alex was killed in the shooting.
Max Schachter reacts as video and audio are played from inside a classroom as bullets are fired into it during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, July 18, 2022. His son Alex was killed in the shooting.

"This is what the defendant said: 'Hello, my name is Nik. I'm going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is at least 20 people with an AR-15 and some tracer rounds. It's going to be a big event, and when you see me on the news, you'll know who I am. You're all going to die. Ah yeah, I can't wait,'" Satz said.

Defense attorneys plan to deliver opening statements when they present their case in the coming weeks.

This article was written by WPTV.'