The motive for the Florida school shooting remains unclear, but some of the social media posts of accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz are getting attention, in particular a profile picture with a “MAGA” hat on Instagram. The slogan stands for “Make America Great Again,” which is President Donald Trump’s signature campaign motto.
The posts on the two Instagram pages attributed to Cruz appear fixated on weaponry, not politics, though. However, CNN gained access to an Instagram group in which the network claims Cruz wrote racist posts. Cruz allegedly “repeatedly espoused racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns,” reported CNN, including writing that he hated “jews, ni**ers, immigrants” and talking “about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks.” According to CNN, he also wrote that he had written a letter to Trump and wrote “I think I am going to kill people.”
The MAGA hat makes an appearance in a profile picture on one of the Instagram pages that Heavy has verified belonged to Cruz, 19, an expelled student who is accused of going on a rampage with an AR-15 weapon. On the page with the MAGA hat, the accused school shooter went by the handle @nikolascruzmakarov; MAGA stands for the slogan “Make America Great Again” and is President Donald Trump’s campaign motto. Makarov is the name of a Russian-made pistol. (You can read tributes to the victims here.)
CNN obtained a video the network said was of the shooter undertaking target practice while wearing a MAGA hat.
Instagram released a statement on the account with the MAGA hat, writing, “This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected. There is absolutely no place on our platforms for people who commit such horrendous acts. We have found and immediately deleted the shooter’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram.”
President Trump expressed prayers for the victims. “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott. We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting.”
Trump held a press conference on February 15, in which he said the shooter had “opened fire on defenseless students and teachers.” The president added, “Our entire nation with one heavy heart is praying for the victims and their families.” He pledged that the government “was here for you” to the victims’ families. “We are all joined together as one American family,” Trump said. “…No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school.” The president said that “we hold onto God’s word in scripture.” He said he wanted to speak directly to “America’s children,” adding, “I want you to know that you are never alone, and you never will be.”
To be clear, authorities have not said that politics played any role in the shootings. They have indicated that they are not certain of the motive, and those who knew Cruz described him to various Florida and national media outlets as an odd loner obsessed with guns. His social media pages focus on weaponry, both guns and knives. However, the MAGA hat is one detail in the fuller biography of the accused shooter, and the social posts, in totality, help give a picture of the man.
There are unconfirmed allegations that the suspect held extremist views. Jordan Jereb told the Associated Press that Cruz was a member of the white supremacist militia group Republic of Florida and “participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.” Jordan, a leader in the militia that has been described as similar to the Ku Klux Klan, told the AP that Cruz had previous trouble with a female and might have chosen Valentine’s Day for the massacre for that reason. According to Daily Beast, Jereb says a member of the group may have given Cruz a rifle. However, local authorities in Tallahassee, where the group is based now say they can find no link between Nikolas Cruz and the ROF militia group, according to Tallahassee.com. Authorities conducted a gun trace and say that Cruz bought the gun he used.
The ROF leader Jordan Jereb told the Associated Press that Cruz was a member of the ROF and “participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.” He told AP that Cruz had previous trouble with a female and might have chosen Valentine’s Day for the massacre for that reason. “He acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did,” Jordan Jereb told the AP. ROF has its own YouTube channel. Jereb is a convicted felon. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jereb once “professed his love for Molotov cocktails and shared a video that details an argument for when it’s okay to shoot a police officer.” His Twitter page has now been suspended.
Some people argued on social media that Cruz was actually a registered Democrat based on the voter registration of a Nicolas Cruz in Florida whose birthday is in May 1998. However, the Broward sheriff said in a press conference that the Nikolas Cruz accused of being the school shooter was born in September 1998, not in May (you can watch that comment below). The accused school shooter’s name is spelled Nikolas, not Nicolas, although many in the news media initially went with the latter. The New York Times also verified Cruz’s Instagram page. A check of the voter registration database in Florida using the DOB provided in court records for Nikolas Cruz shows he was not registered to vote in that state.
The Daily Beast reported that, according to Ocean Parodie, 17, “Cruz always had his hair short and had a penchant for wearing patriotic shirts that ‘seemed really extreme, like hating on’ Islam…The suspected gunman would also deride Muslims as ‘terrorists and bombers.’” Parodie also told Daily Beast: “I’ve seen him wear a Trump hat.”
The suspect posted on Instagram about a Google search for the phrase “Allahu Akbar” in 2015 but the caption said, “Well at least we now know what it means when a sand durka says ‘allahu Akbar’ ??????”
Some people have been using that post to argue the suspect supported ISIS or Islamic terrorism, but the post showed he was joking about terrorism and wanted to kill terrorists. He wrote: “Durka durka Mohamed jihad .. how do I work this oh oh I mess up cooo booom!!…durka durka … bam boom explosions,” and included a series of bomb smilies. The Sheriff said it’s too early to say whether there was a terrorism motive, but authorities haven’t found anything pointing to that. They have not yet released a motive. The alleged shooter was previously expelled from the high school in Parkland, Florida for disciplinary reasons.
A user named Nikolas Cruz left disturbing comments on Youtube videos, CNN reported. One, made seven months ago, was posted on a video clip from the NatGeo show “Alaska State Troopers: Armed and Dangerous.” It read: “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.” Six months ago, the user wrote, “Im going watch them sheep fall f*ck antifa i wish to kill as many as i can,” on a Youtube video titled “Antifa Gun Club.”
Also nine months ago, the user commented, “I am going to do what he did,” on a video about the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas.
One man posted a video in which he claimed that the FBI had visited him about Cruz. The man said in the video that, in September 2017, he took a screenshot of a comment on one of his videos on YouTube. It came in under the name Nikolas Cruz and said “I am going to be a professional school shooter.” He reported the comment to YouTube and tried to email it to the FBI to no avail. Two FBI agents did come to talk to him, he says in the video.
The suspect made disturbing posts on Instagram and the pages attributed to him are filled with photos of guns. He posted a photo of a dead toad and wrote, “These things killed my dog. So I kill them pretty much. #killingtoads.” His Instagram profile contained the word: “Annihilator.” Cruz posted a series of photos of weapons with a message about shooting being a form of “group therapy” for him. Some news sites initially gave the suspect’s name as Nicolas de Jesus Cruz or Nicolas Cruz. He is also called Nick Cruz by some people who knew him.
Giovonni Watford, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told BuzzFeed News that Cruz was in the Junior ROTC program but “was off. He was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face.” According to Buzzfeed, Watford says that Cruz complained he was bullied.
Other posts being circulated on social media are not Cruz’s. According to Buzzfeed, “A fake ‘antifa’ account is also a hoax about the suspect wearing an antifa T-shirt. However, the man in the picture is a 24-year-old named Marcel Fontaine, not the suspect.”
You can read more of Cruz’s Instagram posts here.
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