MIAMI — Left alone inside a police interview room just a few hours after he had gunned down 17 of his former classmates and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the confessed gunman, Nikolas Cruz, said he no longer wanted to live.
“Kill me,” he muttered to himself, finishing with a stream of despairing expletives.
Detective John Curcio of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had stepped out to get a glass of water for the suspect, though Mr. Cruz had said he didn’t “deserve it.” The recorder inside the room was still running.
The scene would repeat itself several times throughout the night, according to a partial transcript of the interview released on Monday: Detective Curcio would leave the room and Mr. Cruz, 19, would talk to himself about dying, about how he was “worthless.”
“I don’t understand. I just want to die,” Mr. Cruz said. “I just want to die now.”
Then, after nearly three hours of questioning: “Why didn’t he kill me? Why didn’t he kill me? Why didn’t he kill me? Why didn’t he kill me? Why didn’t he kill me?”
It is unclear to whom he was referring.
The transcript revealed for the first time what Mr. Cruz told police following the mass shooting, including that he blamed a “demon” voice inside his head for his actions. The voice, Mr. Cruz told Detective Curcio, gave him instructions: “Burn. Kill. Destroy.”
After the Feb. 14 massacre, Mr. Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas student, dropped his legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle and left the school, undetected in the crowds of escaping children. Police found him about an hour later, walking down the sidewalk on a nearby residential street. He did not resist arrest.
Mr. Cruz confessed to the shooting. His public defenders have said that they would accept a deal from prosecutors to send Mr. Cruz to jail for life. Instead, Michael J. Satz, the state attorney, is seeking the death penalty. Mr. Cruz has been charged with 34 counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder.
As a result, portions of Mr. Cruz’s interview with police were blacked out of the transcript, in accordance with Florida law that exempts direct confessions from public release before trial. Mr. Cruz’s attorneys wanted to keep the full transcript confidential, but a judge ordered its release after news organizations, including The New York Times, sued under Florida’s public records law.
In May, prosecutors released three short videos Mr. Cruz recorded on his cellphone before the shooting, in which he said that he wanted his name to be remembered along with other perpetrators of mass shootings. “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am,” he said. “You’re all going to die.”
He also expressed a sense of loneliness and worthlessness, which he repeated in the police interview, telling Detective Curcio that the voice inside his head at times acted like an imaginary friend that kept him company. “Because I have no one,” he said.
Mr. Cruz told Detective Curcio that he had tried to kill himself twice before the shootings, once by ingesting nearly an entire bottle of Advil (which he said he later threw up) and another by drinking vodka and tequila (which purportedly made him pass out). Sometimes, he would cut himself, Mr. Cruz said, including on the morning of the shooting, when took a blunt knife to himself at a lake where he had gone fishing.
He alternatively described himself as “stupid” and a “coward.”
Prodded by the detective, Mr. Cruz said that he had amassed a cache of weapons and ammunition since turning 18, including the assault rifle, a .9-caliber rifle, three shotguns and an AK-47. Mr. Cruz, who worked as a cashier at a Dollar Tree and had inherited money from his mother when she died four months earlier, estimated the collection had cost him about $4,000.
Mr. Cruz said that a couple of weeks before the attack, he had planned to go to a park and shoot people there but then decided he “didn’t want to do it.”
At first, Mr. Cruz said that he did not even remember how he had gotten to Stoneman Douglas to carry out his rampage. But by later in the interview, he remembered arriving via an Uber ride. The voice inside his head told him to take it, he said.
“It’s a voice. The voice is in here,” Mr. Cruz said. “And then it’s me. It’s just regular me just trying to be a good person.”
Twice during the interview, Mr. Cruz asked for a psychologist, “to find out what’s wrong with me.” He claimed he had never seen one, though school, state and court records show he had been counseled by mental health specialists for years. Mr. Cruz told Detective Curcio he had been scared to tell others about the voice.
Over the course of the interview, which began shortly after 6 p.m., about four hours after the shooting, Detective Curcio appeared increasingly incredulous at Mr. Cruz’s insistence that the voice pushed him to hurt himself and others. The voice was quelled by physical activity, Mr. Cruz said, or by taking Xanax — which he bought off the streets illegally years earlier, he said — or smoking marijuana.
“I, personally, think you’re using the demon as an excuse,” the detective said.
“I’m not,” Mr. Cruz responded. “I promise.”
“I think you like the demon,” the detective continued.
“No, I don’t,” Mr. Cruz said before asking for an attorney.
His request effectively ended the police interview. But Detective Curcio later brought Mr. Cruz’s brother, Zachary, into the interview room and sat in on their conversation. Parts of what was said have been redacted, indicating that they also likely include Mr. Cruz’s confession.
“People think you’re a monster now,” Zachary Cruz told his brother, adding, “You’re not acting like yourself.”
“I’m sorry, dude,” Nikolas Cruz told him.
Zachary Cruz apologized for mistreating his older brother in the past and repeatedly told him he loved him. Nikolas Cruz said he loved him back.
“What do you think Mom would think right now if she was —” Zachary Cruz asked his brother, leaving the sentence unfinished.
“She would cry,” Nikolas Cruz said.