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 don’t want to be here (but) they called me,” Jessica Clark Flournoy, a mental health counselor who treated Cruz for two years while he was in high school, told the court.

Flournoy described Cruz as an anxious, nervous boy who had trouble concentrating and making friends while attending Westglades Middle School in Parkland.

“He didn’t 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 that he crumpled up the paper as soon as he put it on his desk, he said.

“He wanted to have friends,” she said. “He wanted to be liked by his peers. He had trouble making friends.”

He also had trouble controlling his behavior, Flournoy said. He made inappropriate comments in class and was eventually assigned an attendant to take him from class to class.

One day in 2013, he was sent home early after ripping off the faucet in the boys’ bathroom. Soon after, he entered the PROMISE program, a disciplinary program for student misbehavior.

The PROMISE program has been criticized for allowing children to commit crimes without consulting the police or amassing a record that could later be used to prevent them from owning a gun.

Cruz, now 23, killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

He faces the death penalty for each of the 17 murders he committed. Defense attorneys are presenting testimony about Cruz and his mental health in an effort to convince jurors that he has been in a lifelong battle to control his behavior.

A unanimous jury vote is required to sentence Cruz to death. otherwise he will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Prosecutor Jeff Marcus told Flournoy that three days before Cruz went on to shoot Stoneman Douglas, he made a video predicting he would soon become famous. In the video he said: “You will all die. I look forward.”

Flournoy said she was unaware Cruz had made such a video.

He also hadn’t realized his fascination with weapons. Or the fact that he drew pictures in class of naked stick figures showing body parts and people shooting each other with guns.

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

Browd wasn’t surprised when Nicholas was diagnosed with ADHD.

“You’d have to be a fool not to know,” he said. “He was very hyperactive. He couldn’t sit still for two seconds.”

The Browd children often played with Nikolas and his brother Zachary.

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

“I wasn’t around at the time,” he said. “I was in New York and I buried my father-in-law.”

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

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

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

The trial continues Wednesday afternoon.

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