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Former Parkland students, teacher describe being 'ambushed' by Nikolas Cruz during school shooting

'They were both instantly gone after being wounded,' Genesis Valentin testifies after 2 classmates killed
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Ashley Baez describes the gunshot wounds she sustained to her leg during the rampage at the school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is being tried in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Posted at 6:20 AM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 09:20:52-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.  — The jury in the Parkland sentencing trial heard more emotional testimony Wednesday as teachers and students recalled the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

Former student Ashley Baez took the stand and recounted how she was in band class on the day of the shooting but had to use the bathroom, prompting her to go to the freshman building.

Baez said she saw someone in the stairwell of the building that appeared to be a security or administrator that looked "freaked out."

She said she turned around because he saw that person run up the stairs.

As she turned around, Baez said she spotted Nikolas Cruz coming out of the stairwell, prompting her to turn around. She said that is when the firing started, prompting her to run to the bathroom, but she discovered it was locked.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz enters the courtroom during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz enters the courtroom during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

She then found an unlocked classroom, so she went in there.

While she was in the hallway, she didn’t realize at that moment that she had been shot in the leg.

"I had a bullet wound enter my right leg and then explode on my left side," Baez said.

She said she had four surgeries after the shooting to repair her wounds.

A second witness on Wednesday, Genesis Valentin, recalled being in Dara Hass' English class when she started hearing gunshots.

After she and her classmates heard three shots, they started to hide, according to her testimony.

Since it was Valentine's Day, at first she said they thought it was balloons but knew it was something serious after hearing more shots.

Genesis Valentin, former Stoneman Douglas student, testifies July 20, 2022
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Genesis Valentin testifies in court on July 20, 2022. Valentin was injured when the school shooting occurred on Feb. 14, 2018.

Valentin was injured by shrapnel to her legs from the gunfire.

She recounted how she saw Alaina Petty and Alyssa Alhadeff, two of her classmates, lifeless after the shooting.

"They were both instantly gone after being wounded," Valentin said.

Ivy Schamis, a former social studies teacher, was teaching the history of the Holocaust when the shooting started that day.

She testified how she and her approximately 30 students stopped their lessons after hearing the gunshots, seeking cover where ever they could.

"We were all sort of down on the ground, on the floor, trying to hide behind whatever we could," Schamis said. "It was really seconds later that the barrel of that AR-15 just ambushed our classroom."

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ivy Schamis describes the carnage in her classroom during the rampage at the school. Two students in her class were killed, Nicholas Dworet, and Helena Ramsay. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is being tried in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ivy Schamis describes the carnage in her classroom during the rampage at the school. Two students in her class were killed, Nicholas Dworet, and Helena Ramsay. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is being tried in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

She said the sound was extremely loud as the bullets tore through the glass panels of a classroom door.

She then started to hear more gunshots from across the hall.

"The students were quite mature. I was unbelievably proud, and they were incredibly brave," Schamis said.

She then identified for the court, Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet, both of who were students in her class that died in the tragedy.

Four other students in Schamis' classroom were injured but survived their wounds.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Juletta Matlock describes the carnage in her classroom during the shooting rampage at the school. Several of her students were shot, and three of her students, Luke Hoyer, Gina Montalto, and Martin Duque were killed in the shooting. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is being tried in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Juletta Matlock describes the carnage in her classroom during the shooting rampage at the school. Several of her students were shot, and three of her students, Luke Hoyer, Gina Montalto, and Martin Duque were killed in the shooting. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is being tried in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Juletta Matlock, a teacher at the school, was in study hall with about 29 students and testified that she heard three loud bangs. However, she at first thought it was a drill, telling the students to remain calm.

But the sounds "just kept coming and kept coming," Matlock testified. She said there were so many gunshots that she couldn't remember how many were fired.

Martin Duque and Luke Hoyer were inside her classroom at the time and asked to go to the school's media center.

Matlock testified that she gave both of them the pass to leave her room. They were later killed in the gunfire.

She allowed others to leave the classroom, including Gina Montalto, to go to an outcove in front of the room to work on a project.

Montalto would later also be killed in the gunfire.

Ronit Reoven, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School testifies about the massacre on Feb. 14, 2022.
Ronit Reoven, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School testifies on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, about the massacre on Feb. 14, 2022.

Ronit Reoven, a teacher of psychology and geography, recounted how she heard the "whimpering and the moans and groans from the kids that were shot" in her classroom.

Reoven testified that four of her students were hit by gunfire in the rampage.

"At that point, I knew that I had to try to do something for the kids that were injured," Reoven said.

She recounted giving one injured student water who pleaded for help. She said she also used a blanket to use as a tourniquet for another injured who was shot in the arm and bleeding.

However, she described seeing one of her other students, Carmen Schentrup, unresponsive.

"She wasn't moving, and she was just laying there … face down," Reoven said. "I knew that she was probably gone."

Stacey Lippel, creative writing teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School testifies, July 20
Stacey Lippel testified on July 20, 2022, in court that she was teaching creative writing teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the shooting occurred.

Stacey Lippel, testified Wednesday that she was teaching creative writing to about 38 students when she started hearing "a popping sound."

Lippel said she later ordered her students out of the room to evacuate after hearing the fire alarm go off. After leaving the classroom with her students, she heard kids screaming and then gunshots.

Lippel recounted a chaotic scene and spotting Cruz in the stairwell while students ran for safety back inside her classroom.

"My memory is that (Cruz) was standing in front of the stairwell sort of splaying the rifle back and forth," Lippel said. "It was just shot after shot after shot. It just never stopped."

She said she got within 20 feet of Cruz.

Anthony Borges shows the jury his wounds from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, July 20, 2022
Anthony Borges on July 20, 2022, shows the jury his wounds from the shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

As Lippel was closing her classroom door, she heard more gunshots being fired, some of which pierced the glass of her door. However, no one in the classroom was hit by the gunfire.

She recounted hearing the voice of Anthony Borges crying and screaming for help but she said she was unable to open the door to help him.

Borges survived the massacre after he was shot five times in the leg and back, later having 14 surgeries during his recovery.

Ernest Rospierski, a history, geography and international relations teacher at the school, testified Wednesday how he helped students get to safety when he heard gunshots.

He explained that two bullets grazed him in the face and hip during the shooting.

Rospierski testified that he saw Jaime Guttenberg unresponsive on the ground.

"I reached down and shook her trying to get some sort of reaction," Rospierski said. "I got nothing."

For much of the testimony, Cruz has continued to look down as the witnesses recount the tragedy.

Cruz previously pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.

This article was written by Scott Sutton for WPTV.