CHICAGO (CBS) — Florida prosecutors announced Tuesday they will seek the death penalty against school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in the fatal shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The 19-year-old is scheduled for formal arraignment Wednesday. He is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first-degree and 17 more counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Cruz’s attorneys have said he would plead guilty if the death penalty was not pursued, which would mean a life prison sentence with no possibility of parole.
The Valentine’s Day massacre was the ninth deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. In response, students across the country are taking part in a nation-wide walkout Wednesday.
“We understand what role we play,” said Kai Wright, a senior at Jones College Prep High School in the South Loop. “It very well could have been my school or my best friend’s school.”
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The effort is to draw attention to the cause of stricter gun control, particularly in regard to greater school safety. Organizers behind the Women’s March are assisting the students, and together have called for the 17-minute walkout on March 14 to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
In preparation, some Chicago Public Schools have coordinated with police to patrol and close down certain streets for the walkout.
“We wanted to do it in a way that no student would suffer any disciplinary action,” said Jones College Prep Principal, Dr. Joseph Powers. “By doing it that way, we’re showing respect for them, they, in turn, I think will respect the fact that we want to get back to school.”
Chicago Republican Party is preparing to sue Chicago Public Schools for its support of the rallies, saying, “It’s a violation of CPS policy, of state law, and of the first amendment.”
Moreover, in the hallways of Oak Lawn Community High School, some are concerned the walkout is too political for a school environment; participation could earn students a spot in detention.
“Why am I not allowed to participate in something that has a voice behind it?” one student said.
But in an effort to listen, every day this week, the school has sponsored free seminars on ways to speak up outside of school.
Some students in Oak Lawn say they will walkout and take the detention, while also working with the district to arrange out of school rallies to get their voices heard in the future.
The nation-wide walkout takes place at 10 a.m. in each time zone.