Attorney: Florida high school shooting suspect a 'broken human being'

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Public defender Melisa McNeill said her client, accused gunman Nikolas Cruz, is a "broken child" who feels the pain of those he is accused of hurting. (Pool via CNN)

The suspect in a mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead is a "broken child" who feels the pain of those he is accused of hurting, according to his attorney.

Speaking to reporters after a Thursday court appearance, public defender Melisa McNeill shed light on Nikolas Cruz's condition and expressed her own sympathy for those impacted by the shooting.

"He's a broken human being. He's a broken child," McNeill said. "My children are there. They go to school in this community. I feel horrible for these families and Mr. Cruz feels that pain."

Cruz, a 19-year-old orphan whose mother died last year, was charged with murder Thursday in the assault that devastated this sleepy community on the edge of the Everglades. He confessed to carrying out one of the nation's deadliest school shootings and concealing extra ammunition in his backpack, according to a sheriff's department report.

He told investigators that he shot students in the hallways and on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, the report from the Broward County Sheriff's Office said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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