Parkland Gunman Sat Next to Victim's Brother at McDonald's

John Wilford didn't know who the shooter was in aftermath of attack
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2022 6:30 AM CDT

After fleeing the chaos at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, John Wilford, then a freshman, walked to a nearby McDonald's, where he waited for his mother to pick him up. He didn't yet realize his sister, Maddy, had been shot at least three times and was seriously injured in the mass shooting during which 17 were murdered and 17 others injured. He also didn't realize who had done it: Nikolas Cruz, who escaped the scene by camouflaging himself among the students who were running away from the school—and who then walked into the same McDonald's and sat down at Wilford's table, CNN reports. "He just sat down next to me," Wilford said while testifying during the shooter's sentencing trial last week.

"I didn't think much of it. I was panicked. I was just trying to get back home," Wilford continued, noting that he was worried because his sister wasn't answering her phone. He didn't realize what was going on, but his class had been evacuated by police, Yahoo News reports. He had never met the shooter before, but figured he was a Stoneman Douglas student. He recalled trying to talk to the shooter about the "crazy" situation, but says the shooter didn't say much, Local 10 reports.

When Wilford's mom arrived, however, the shooter followed Wilford outside and asked for a ride; Wilford said no. "He was pretty insistent on it, and I said no," he testified. "I was nervous, I was panicked. I also had a bad gut feeling about it." Jurors were shown surveillance video of the shooter inside the McDonald's with Wilford. He was arrested about 40 minutes later as he walked. (Read more Parkland school shooting stories.)

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