Play dead' a mom tells daughter in Florida school shooting

recording of an emergency 911 call was released on Thursday


Reuters March 09, 2018
Mourners stand during a candlelight vigil for the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 15, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: "If he shoots, play dead," the mother of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student told her daughter during the Florida mass shooting last month that left 17 dead, according to a recording of an
emergency 911 call released on Thursday.

The mother, who can be overheard talking to her daughter
while a man speaks with the 911 dispatcher, repeatedly tells her
daughter she loves her until the police arrive at the school in
Parkland on Feb. 14, according to the recording released by the
Broward Sheriff's Office.

"I love you, I love you, it's going to be fine. Can you hide
somewhere? Can you play dead?" the unidentified mother can be
heard saying on the call, which lasted more than 15 minutes. "If
he shoots, you need to play dead. If he shoots, play dead."

The call was one of 10 released on Thursday of 81 received
the day of the shooting. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, is accused of using a semiautomatic assault rifle to kill 17 students and
faculty members at the high school.

A Florida grand jury formally indicted Cruz on Wednesday on
17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17
counts of attempted murder in the first degree for the shooting
spree. He faces either execution or life in prison without
parole if convicted.

On the recorded 911 call in which the unidentified mother
can be overheard, the dispatcher advises the man who called what
to tell the girl. "Don't do nothing. I don't need her to make any noise.
Everybody needs to be quiet in that room," the dispatcher said.

Only one recording that was released came from inside the
school, and it was made by someone who sounded like a male
student whispering during the 40-second call.

"Someone is shooting up the school at Stoneman Douglas," the
voice said. "I'm sorry," the 911 operator said. "I can't hear you.
What's happening?" "Someone is shooting up Marjory Stoneman Douglas," he said.

"Someone is doing what? Hello? Hello? Hello," said the
operator as heavy breathing could be heard. "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is being shot up," the caller said before the call ended in a dial tone.

In other calls, dispatchers advised adults to tell students they were in contact with to silence their cellphones and hide.

Also on Thursday, Cruz's lawyers changed his plea to "stands
mute" to the charges from his initial plea of "not guilty," according to court documents.

The public defender's office in Broward County has said Cruz
was willing to plead guilty if county prosecutors choose not to
pursue the death penalty. The prosecutors' office has not
announced whether it will pursue Cruz's execution. "We are not saying he is not guilty, but we can't plead guilty while death is still on the table," his attorney, public defender Howard Finkelstein, told Reuters in an email.

However, Finkelstein said that a not guilty plea "seemed wrong" and was "a legal fiction that could bring unnecessary pain to the victims' families."

Finkelstein said Cruz would agree to 34 consecutive life sentences without parole, for the 17 people killed and 17 wounded.

He said the court would likely enter a plea of "not guilty" on Cruz's behalf to move the case forward.

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