Accused Florida gunman agrees to give DNA to prosecutors: lawyer
FORT LAUDERDALE, USA: A Florida court canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday for the 19-year-old man accused of carrying out the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history after a deal between prosecutors and defense attorneys, the suspect’s lawyer said.
Prosecutors had been scheduled to seek hair and DNA samples from Nikolas Cruz, who faces 17 murder counts for the Feb. 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, an affluent suburb of Fort Lauderdale.
Broward County prosecutors and Cruz’s publicly appointed defender, Gordon Weekes, reached a deal late Monday to provide those samples, making the hearing unnecessary, Weekes said.
“There was no reason to push back,” Weekes said. “It was a routine motion that the state attorney had filed. We submitted an agreed order and there was no need for a court to hear the motion.”
The hearing would have been the second courtroom appearance for Cruz since the shooting.
The massacre, carried out with a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle, inflamed the long-running U.S. debate on gun rights in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Cruz’s case is due to return to court on Wednesday when a hearing will determine whether he has sufficient assets to pay for his own defense, Weekes said. Cruz’s mother died in November.
The shooting has rattled long-drawn political lines on gun rights in the United States, where Republican officials have often opposed efforts by gun control advocates to tighten gun ownership laws, partly out of concern about retribution by the powerful National Rifle Association.
U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican who backed gun rights during and since his 2016 presidential campaign, has been under pressure to show he is responding without alienating members of his party who oppose firearms restrictions.
On Monday, he met with 35 governors, urging them to disregard pressure from the NRA as they seek to address firearms safety and school security.
Trump has embraced the call to safeguard schools by arming teachers but also has voiced support for strengthening background checks for prospective gun buyers – a proposal the NRA has traditionally resisted.
U.S. Representative David N. Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, on Monday introduced a bill that would revive the U.S. ban on assault weapons, the sort of firearm that has figured in mass shootings from Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people died at a school in 2012, to Las Vegas, where 58 people were killed and hundreds wounded last year in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. A federal ban on those weapons expired in 2004 after being in force for 10 years.
Congressional Republicans and the NRA have long opposed such a measure, and Cicilline acknowledged the measure faced an steep uphill battle in a Republican-controlled Congress.
“We’ve just got to keep the pressure on. This won’t be easy,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “But I think it’s time for people to stand up and do what’s right for their constituents.”
Local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have faced criticism that they failed to properly look into multiple tips that Cruz had the potential and capacity for violence.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has been criticized for his department’s response to the shooting, including the fact that an armed school resource officer stationed at the school stayed outside during the attack.
The officer through an attorney on Monday said he remained outside because that was where he believe the gunfire was occurring. Israel has said his department has opened an investigation into its handling of the shooting.