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The public defender of the Florida school shooter described him as a "child" who lacked the "impulse control" to deal with the traumatic death of his adoptive mother last year.

Attorney Melisa McNeill spoke about her client's state of mind Thursday following the attack that killed 17 people at a Florida high school. Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is reportedly on suicide watch in a Broward County jail. 

McNeill stressed that Cruz was rocked last November by the sudden death of his adoptive mother from pneumonia and he could not deal with the trauma. Cruz's adoptive father had passed away years earlier.  

"When your brain is not fully developed, you don't know how to deal with these things. When you have the lack of impulse control that a 19-year-old has, that affects the behavior that you exhibit. That's the child I'm sitting across from," she said. 

Another defense attorney said Thursday Cruz shows signs of autism and has suffered from mental health problems.

"He fell between the cracks, there are a lot of issues," said Gordon Weekes of the Broward Public Defender’s Office.

State Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Cruz. 

"Happening Now" anchor Julie Banderas emphasized that Cruz is described as no more mature than a "child" by his lawyer, yet he was able to pass a background check and legally purchase an AR-15. 

"In many states, it's 18 years old, that's the limit to buy an assault weapon. An assault weapon is meant for one thing and that is to kill. You have to be 21 to buy a beer. So if you're not old enough to drink alcohol, then why should you be able and responsible enough to purchase an assault weapon?" she asked.

Meantime, the FBI said Friday it received a phone call tip last month about Cruz, his erratic behavior and his arsenal of weapons. 

"Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life," the FBI statement said. "We have determined that these protocols were not followed."

Watch the segment above. 


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