A 19-year-old former student with a fixation on weaponry and a trail of disturbing social media posts has been identified as the suspect in the shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead and 15 others wounded. It was the third deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, after Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.
Nikolas Cruz, who a teacher says was previously identified as a threat to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was arrested after the shooting and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, authorities said. The dollar store worker was expelled from the Parkland school for disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference. You can read the court documents here.
Prosecutors announced on March 13 that they will seek the death penalty against Cruz, saying the crime “was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner” that was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.” Cruz appeared in court March 14 where the victims’ emotional families saw him for the first time; his defense attorney indicated he was willing to plead guilty in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table, and a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
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 President Donald Trump and proclaimed: “I think I am going to kill people.” It was discovered that he had allegedly etched swastikas on weapon magazines and unsuccessful tried to create a “sniper’s perch” in the school to shoot students.
In the days after the mass shooting, law enforcement agencies and officers have fallen under scrutiny after it emerged that there was a series of other red flags about Cruz. The school’s resource officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended and resigned after the sheriff revealed he never went in the school building to confront the shooter despite being on school property and being armed. The New York Times reported that a woman called the FBI a month before the shooting spree to warn authorities about Cruz.
“If you go onto his Instagram page, you’ll see all the guns he – he’s so into ISIS and, um, I-I’m afraid this is so-something’s gonna happen. Because he’s, he doesn’t have the mental capacity,” the tipster said, according to an FBI transcript of the call published by The Times.
The caller told the FBI that Cruz’s Instagram page said, “I want to kill people,” adding, “And then uh you know wanting to kill all these animals and uh he wants to um uh do something in Arabic and uh he dresses up like a ninja or a or a-a-a ISIS guy. And he has pictures of all the rifles and everything on the Instagram, on one of these accounts.” The tipster said Cruz also wanted to join the Army.
Cruz is accused of taking an Uber to the school right before classes ended, then pulling a fire alarm and gunning down students and staff members inside as they ran through the haze from smoke grenades he lobbed in the hallway. Cruz appeared in court on February 15, standing silently in an orange jumpsuit with his head tilted downward. The defense made no arguments on his behalf, and he was held without bond. Later, his public defender, Melisa McNeill, told the media: “He’s sad. He’s mournful. He’s remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he’s just a broken human being.” The public defender’s office is now asking for an indigency determination after reports that Cruz might have inherited $800,000 when his mother died.
Gordon Weeks, another attorney representing Cruz, added, “When your brain is not fully developed, you don’t know how to deal with these things. That’s the child I’m sitting across from. The child is deeply troubled and he has endured significant trauma that stems from the loss of his mother.” ABC News is reporting that the suspect told investigators “that he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions on what to do to conduct the attack,” describing them as “demons.”
Israel, the sheriff, said that authorities are examining “very, very disturbing” social media posts investigators have uncovered. Some of those posts, confirmed by Heavy, show Cruz holding weapons and talking about shooting targets as therapy. Students say that Cruz, whose adoptive mother died in November, often talked about guns. Cruz was currently enrolled in the Broward County school district. Concerns have also emerged about whether the FBI could have done more to investigate an earlier YouTube comment left in the suspect’s name on a man’s video; it spoke of becoming a “professional school shooter.”
The Anti-Defamation League wrote on its website that it has information that Nikolas Cruz might have been involved in a white supremacist militia group called Republic of Florida, even participating in its training exercises.
An ROF leader later told the Associated Press and Daily Beast that Cruz was a member and claims Cruz received a rifle from another person affiliated with the militia. The ROF has been described as a “white nationalist group that encourages militia training” with a similar mission to the Ku Klux Klan. 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. The ROF leader who made the claim to the media now appears to have backed down from the contention.
A representative of the ATF said the firearm was purchased lawfully just short of a year ago in the State of Florida. According to the sheriff, the shooter bought the gun at a dealer in Coral Springs, Florida called Sunrise Tactical.
Israel said the victims were killed inside the school, just outside and on a road nearby, with two victims dying at the hospital. The victims included students and adults. They included a geography teacher who was shot after he opened his classroom door to save fleeing students; the school’s athletic director; an assistant coach called a hero for taking bullets for students; a student who was an immigrant from Venezuela who recently became a citizen; a senior who was already awarded a swimming scholarship, and many others whose family and friends shared their grief on social media. You can read about the victims here.
The motive for the Valentine’s Day shooting is not yet known. Cruz was initially identified by the media as Nicolas de Jesus Cruz and Nicolas Cruz and also goes by Nick Cruz. But the sheriff’s office clarified the correct spelling is Nikolas Cruz and records show his full name is Nikolas Jacob Cruz.
The sheriff said Cruz had multiple magazines with him.
“It was toward the end of the day, it was fourth period,” an 18-year-old student at the high school told Heavy. “I started to put my head down in class and next thing you know I heard about 6 to 7 shots in the classroom right next to me on the first floor of the freshman building. We all just decided to pile in one corner, we all decided to just stay put, because we didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know if it was real or fake. We all kept quiet, the next thing we know the school shooter shot the window, glass went everywhere. We all put our heads down, he put the gun inside the window, turned his gun and shot three or four bullets, I heard a kid in my class with his knee shot and another school got shot and she was just bleeding everywhere. It was horrifying.”
The student said he grabbed a towel and gave it to a teacher who tied it around the wounded student’s leg. SWAT officers came about 15 minutes later to get the students out of the classroom.
Anyone with information about the shooting or the shooter is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI. Videos and images of the shooting and any other information about it or the gunman can be uploaded through the FBI website here.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Just finished update from fed authorities on #FloridaSchoolShooting. It is clear attack was designed & executed to maximize loss of life. In days ahead (it) will become increasingly evident that killer in today’s #FloridaSchoolShooting gave plenty of indications of what was to come.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
Here’s what you need to know about Nikolas Cruz:
1. Cruz Told a Friend ‘I Don’t Go to School on Valentine’s Day’ & Went to Subway & McDonalds After He Managed to Blend in With Fleeing Students
The sheriff and a probable cause affidavit filed in court provided a timeline of the mass shooting. Cruz was living with a friend’s family after his adoptive mother died. An attorney representing that family told the Miami Herald that Cruz slept in Wednesday morning and didn’t go to school, telling his friend, “‘It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day,’” the lawyer said.
Instead, he ordered an Uber and headed to Stoneman Douglas High School. A witness told authorities that “he observed Cruz, who he recognized as a former troubled student, arrive at the school in a small goldish colored vehicle,” the affidavit says.
Cruz was wearing a maroon shirt, black pants and a black hat and was carrying a black duffel bag and wearing a black backpack. The man, whose name was redacted, said he radioed his co-worker to “alert him that Cruz was walking purposefully toward the 1200 building.” Within a minute, he heard gunshots and called a Code Red to indicate an emergency on campus. Cruz was found an hour later, and the witness positively identified him. Authorities also spoke to an Uber driver who said she drove Cruz to the high school and dropped him off there. Cruz was currently living in Pompano Beach with a local family.
The sheriff described what happened after Cruz arrived at the school this way: At 2:19 p.m. on February 14, the suspect entered the east stairwell of the high school with a rifle inside a black, soft case. He pulled the rifle out of the case. At 2:21 p.m., he began shooting into three rooms and then circled back on some of them to shoot more.
The suspect then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot a victim on the second floor. He then took the east stairwell to the third floor. Shortly thereafter, he dropped his rifle and ran down the stairs. There was an armed officer on campus during the shooting, but he never saw Cruz, according to AP.
Cruz managed to escape in the ensuing chaos; He ran, mixed in, with a group of students fleeing the school. As the students began to flee, he decided to discard the weapon and a vest he was also wearing so he could blend into the crowd. The shootings were “done with a premeditated design,” alleges the document. He went to a Walmart store and bought a drink at the Subway and then left the Walmart on foot. He went to McDonald’s and sat down for a short period of time and then also left that establishment on foot. At 3:41 p.m., he was detained, the sheriff said.
The sheriff’s office said Cruz was arrested by the Coconut Creek Police Department in a neighborhood in Coral Springs. Nick Cruz was taken into custody at a Parkland home not far from the school. According to police scanner transmissions, officers were tracking the suspect’s movements in the school through security cameras and had a description of the clothing he was wearing. They later had witnesses identify him as the shooter after he was taken into custody.
Video showed Cruz on the ground being handcuffed and then being led into a Broward County Sheriff’s Office vehicle. As reports of the shooting came in, police were given information about what Cruz was wearing through radio dispatch and one officer started traveling through residential areas near the school. He discovered Cruz walking on the sidewalk. “He looked like a typical high school student,” the officer said in a news conference. “For a quick moment, I thought, ‘Could this be the person? Is this who I need to stop?’” He pulled over and engaged Cruz, who complied with his commands and was taken into custody without issue.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in court, Cruz initially “blended in with fleeing students and was able to elude arriving officers.”
“Cruz exhibited labored breathing. He was transported to a local hospital as a precaution for medical clearance,” the sheriff’s office said. He was later seen being transported to jail.
You can listen to police scanner audio from the shooting below:
An assault rifle was abandoned at the scene, according to the probable cause affidavit. An ATF gun trace was performed and records showed that Cruz purchased the rifle in February 2017. The lawyer for the family that took Cruz in, Jim Lewis, told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz already owned the AR-15 used in the shooting before he moved in with the family.
“It was his gun,” Lewis told the newspaper. “The family made him keep it in a locked gun cabinet in the house but he had a key.”
The affidavit alleges that Cruz confessed. Cruz told authorities that “he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds. Cruz stated that he brought additional loaded magazines to the school campus and kept them hidden in a back pack until he got on campus to begin his assault,” the affidavit alleges.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that “the shooter was not a current student.” He added, “It’s catastrophic. There really are no words. I don’t know why he left,” the school. He later read each victim’s name out loud at a press conference to pay homage to those lost.
The sheriff says authorities interviewed 2,000 people in the first day after the shooting alone as they attempted to piece together a picture of the shooter and his motives. The supposed militia angle caused a stir after a Republic of Florida leader, Jordan Jereb, told several media outlets that Cruz was a member. Lt. Grady Jordan told the Tallahassee Democrat, however, that investigators have not been able to find an actual link between Cruz and the militia.
“We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” Jordan said to the newspaper. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said on the evening of February 15 only that the claim was unconfirmed and being looked into, but he did not provide further comment on that point.
The Anti-Defamation League wrote on its website that “a spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) told the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, February 15, that Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with the previous day’s deadly shooting spree at a Parkland, Florida, high school, was associated with his group.”
According to ADL’s statement, the group called the Republic of Florida hotline and spoke with the member who identified himself as Jordan Jereb “after self-described ROF members claimed on the discussion forum 4chan that Cruz had also been a member.”
“Jereb, based in Tallahassee, is believed to be the leader of ROF. In 2016, he was arrested on charges of threatening a staffer in the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott because he was allegedly angry at the staffer’s son,” noted ADL. According to ADL, “Jereb said that Cruz was associated with ROF, having been ‘brought up’ by another member. Jereb added that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida.”
ROF has members throughout Florida, ADL reports. “The alt right white supremacist group borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (not itself a white supremacist movement),” according to ADL. The Republic of Florida’s website reads, “Republic of Florida is a white civil rights organization fighting for white Identitarian politics…” The hotline now goes only to voicemail.
Jereb also told the Associated Press and Daily Beast that Cruz was a member of the ROF. 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.”
However, a reporter for Reveal says that Jereb has since posted an expletive-laden tweet calling the matter “a legit misunderstanding because we have multiple people named Nicholas in ROF.” Jereb’s Twitter page has now been suspended.
2. Cruz Was Expelled After a Fight, Was Abusive Toward His Ex-Girlfriend & Was Deemed to Be a Threat to Other Students, a Teacher & a Classmate Say
Nick Cruz was a known person at the school whose own time there was troubled. He was reported for making threats to students in the past, the Miami Herald reports.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Jim Gard, a math teacher who had the suspected shooter in his class last year, told the newspaper. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
CNN obtained a video the network said was of the shooter undertaking target practice while wearing a MAGA hat.
Gard said the school administration sent out an email warning teachers that the student had made threats against others in the past and should not be allowed on the campus with a backpack.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said that Cruz was expelled from Douglas High School at some point for disciplinary issues. He possibly later attended another local high school, J.P. Taravella High School, but the sheriff said they are still not clear how long he was there. Israel did not provide details about Cruz’s expulsion.
According to The Associated Press, Cruz was expelled after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Victoria Olvera told the AP that Cruz was abusive toward his ex-girlfriend.
Gard told the New York Times, Cruz was obsessed with a girl at the school, “to the point of stalking her.”
Israel told the public, “If you see something, say something. If anybody has any indicator that someone’s going through a behavioral change, or on their social media that there are disturbing photos, perhaps bombs or firearms or just videos or pictures that are just not right, that there’s something off, please make sure law enforcement knows about it.”
When asked if there were signs with the suspect, he said, “I believe there will” be indicators uncovered once investigators have completed examining the suspect’s social media and interviewing him and those who know him. “Our investigators certainly began dissecting social media.”
School officials have not released any information about possible threats made by the suspect, and the district’s superintendent told reporters that there was no warning it was going to happen.
“It’s a day that you pray every day when you get up that you will never have to see. It is in front of us,” Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said at a press briefing. “I ask the community for prayers and their support for the children and their families. We received no warning… Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
Broward Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz was a client at a mental health clinic and had been “dealing with mental health issues.” He had been undergoing some treatment, Furr said, but he did not go into detail about that.
“I don’t know if he was exactly on law enforcement radar, but it wasn’t like there wasn’t concerns for him. He had not been back to the clinic for over a year. So there’s been a time he was receiving treatment and then stopped,” Furr said.
CNN is reporting that Cruz bought the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting himself and passed a background check. At a press conference, Sheriff Israel said he thinks people undergoing treatment for mental illness should not be able to purchase or carry handguns.
“While people who are the victim of mental health illnesses are being treated, in the opinion of this sheriff, they should not be able to buy, surround themselves, purchase or carry a handgun,” he said. “Those two things don’t mix.”
3. He Posted Photos of Guns & Knives on Instagram, Called His Weapons an ‘Arsenal,’ & Appears to Have Left Threatening YouTube Comments
In one of the several warning signs the system had before the shooting, Nikolas Cruz “cut his arms on Snapchat and said he wanted to buy a gun in September 2016,” according to The Sun Sentinel. The newspaper reported that sheriff’s deputies and “adult welfare investigators from the Department of Children & Family Services” investigated but determined that Cruz’s “final level of risk is low as [he] resides with his mother, attends school and receives counseling…”
CNN is also reporting that “the host family who had taken him in immediately after his mother’s death warned local law enforcement that the 19-year-old had ‘used a gun against people before’ and ‘has put the gun to others’ heads in the past.'” One 911 call from the family’s son reported that Cruz might have hidden a firearm in the backyard, CNN reported. In another report obtained by CNN, the host mother, Rocxanne Deschamps, who took in Cruz and his brother when their mother died, called 911 to allege of Cruz that “he was going to get his gun and come back.”
Using the name Nikolas Cruz, the suspect posted several photos in 2016 and 2015 on his Instagram page of weapons and made statements about wanting to buy guns. The page has since been deleted, but Heavy confirmed with sources who know Cruz that the page belonged to him, @cruz_nikolas. The Miami Herald has also verified the page belonged to Cruz.
Instagram often takes down pages of shooting suspects from public view at the request of law enforcement.
In 2016, he posted a photo of a shotgun he said he wanted to buy.
“I plan on getting this but I need more information on it so if someone could give advice on how much I’m spending and background cheeks please to god let me know,” he wrote in 2016.
He also posted multiple photos in January 2016 of himself holding knives.
In 2015, he posted a screenshot of a Google search for the phrase, “what does allahu akbar.” He then wrote a caption that included an anti-Muslim slur, “Well at least we now know what it means when a sand durka says “allahu Akbar” ??????” While some have been using that post to claim that he was pro-ISIS or supporter of Islamic terrorism, comments he made on the Instagram post indicated he wanted to kill terrorists and made jokes about terrorism.
“Durka durka Mohamed jihad .. how do I work this oh oh I mess up cooo booom!!” he wrote. He then added, “durka durka … bam boom explosions,” with a series of bomb smilies.
Ocean Parodie, a 17-year-old student at Broward County school, told The Daily Beast, “I knew him to be passive aggressive but not violent. He was rude to people. He had an act up like he was tough. He never got into, like, physical fights with anyone, but he did get into verbal arguments. I just thought he dropped out of school, I didn’t think he would do anything. He always kept a low profile.”
Parodie added, “He was definitely not accepted at our school socially. People saw him as someone who was different than the normal people at our school.” She said he wore “patriotic” shirts that “seemed really extreme, like hating on” Islam, making offensive jokes and deriding Muslims as “terrorists and bombers.” She added that she had seen him wearing a Trump hat.
Also in 2015, he posted a meme of a target with bullet holes in it with the words “Group therapy, sometimes it works.” He added in the caption, “It really does f*cking work give it a try ;).”
Cruz began using a new Instagram page in 2017, which has also been deleted, but has been confirmed to belong to him by Heavy. The New York Times also verified the page. In that page, @nikolascruzmakarov, he is wearing a Donald Trump campaign “Make America Great Again” hat. Makarov is the name of a Russian-made pistol.
Instagram released a statement on the account with the MAGA hat.
“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,” the social media network’s statement said.
In one photo, which you can see below, he displayed various guns on a bed, along with body armor and wrote in the caption, “arsenal.”
You can see some of the photos of his weapons below:
Cruz also posted a disturbing photo of a bloody, dead toad. He wrote, “These things killed my dog. So I kill them pretty much. #killingtoads.” He wrote simply in his Instagram profile header, “Annihilator.”
CNN reports that a user named Nikolas Cruz left comments on several Youtube videos in which he talked about shooting people and violence.
Nine months ago, the user posted on a video clip from the NatGeo show “Alaska State Troopers: Armed and Dangerous,” writing, “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, Cruz commented, “I am going to do what he did,” on a video about the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas.
CNN says the user wrote on other posts, “I whana shoot people with my AR-15 (sic)” and “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people.” The user also wrote, “Elliot rodger will not be forgotten,” a reference to the 22-year-old California man who killed six people and wounded 14 others near UC Santa Barbara in 2014 before killing himself.
A YouTube user named “BentheBondsman” posted a video Wednesday night saying that the FBI visited him to talk about Cruz because a user named Nikolas Cruz commented on one of his videos recently. The YouTuber’s full name is Ben Bennight, and he is from Mississippi.
He said he reported the comment, “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” after seeing it in September. He submitted a report to Youtube and it was deleted, and he submitted a tip of it to the FBI. He said two agents visited him in September about the post. BentheBondsman said he talked to agents again after the shooting.
Bennight told Buzzfeed News the agents first came to his office September 25.
“They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person,” Bennight told BuzzFeed News. “I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”
On Wednesday, about 4:30 p.m., Bennight told Buzzfeed he received a call from a FBI agent based in Miami.
“I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel,” the agent said in the message, which Bennight provided to BuzzFeed News. “I just wanted to follow up with you on that and ask you a question with something that’s come up, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a ring.”
Two agents came and talked to Bennight. He told Buzzfeed, “They asked me if I knew who he was. I didn’t. I don’t. Then they left.”
The FBI has not confirmed the Youtube account belongs to the accused shooter.
“People leave pretty heinous comments on a pretty regular basis on this channel and I really didn’t think anything of it,” Bennight said in his Youtube video about the comment. “But this comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter’ and I knew I couldn’t just ignore that.”
CNN reports that a second threat was reported to the FBI. CNN reports that those threats were not passed on to local law enforcement.
“I saw the story kind of go across my newsfeed but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it, but when the FBI said it was the same name the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Wow, I hope you were at least watching this guy that I alerted you to months ago,'” Bennight told CNN.
FBI Special Agent Robert Lasky, who runs the agency’s Miami office, said Thursday at a press conference that in 2017 the FBI received a tip about a comment made on a YouTube channel that said, “I want to be a professional school shooter.” Lasky said there was no information about a possible time connected to the threat or any identifying information other than the name of the user. Lasky said agents investigated, but were unable to further identify who made the comment.
4. A Student Says ‘Everyone Predicted’ the Suspect Would Be the Shooter
In 2015, Nikolas Cruz posted a photo of himself giving the middle finger with the caption, “F*ck youuuuuuuuuuuu allllll.”
A student at the school told WJXT-TV’s Vic Micolucci that students thought Cruz would be the suspect.
“Honestly a lot of people were saying it was going to be him,” the student said. “A lot of kids threw jokes around like that, saying that he’s the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out, you know, everyone predicted it. That’s crazy. He was on the third floor, he knows the school layout. He knows where everyone would be at. He’s been in fire drills, he’s prepared for this stuff.”
According to CNN, Broward Sheriff’s deputies “were called to school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s family home 39 times since 2010” for calls that included everything from “mentally ill person” to “domestic disturbance.”
Students have said that fire alarms went off before the shooting and they initially thought it was a drill. It is not clear if a drill was planned or if someone pulled the alarm.
The student told WFOR that Cruz had showed him his guns after he got kicked out of school.
Matthew Walker, a 17-year-old junior told WFOR-TV, “He was going class to class just shooting at random kids. Everything he posts (on social media) is about weapons. It’s sick.”
A student who knows Cruz told the news station, “He always had guns on him and stuff like that. He was a little bit of a troubled kid.”
Cruz was at one point part of the U.S. Army JROTC program at Douglas High School, a fellow member of the program, Giovanni Watford, told Buzzfeed News. He called Cruz a “sketchy kid,” adding that he “was off” and “was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face.”
Watford said Cruz “talked about guns a lot.” He also said Cruz complained often about bullying and said Cruz “had beef with one kid.” Watford’s brother Mike, told Buzzfeed News, that Cruz talked about “how tired he was of everyone picking on him and the staff doing nothing about it,” and said, “something definitely pushed him.”
Cruz was adopted by his parents, Roger and Lynda Cruz, as a young child, a family member told ABC News. Both of his adopted parents are dead. Lynda Cruz died last year, ABC News reports. An obituary shows she died in November. She is pictured on that obituary page holding her young son.
A family member told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz and his biological younger brother were adopted by Lydia and Roger Cruz while they were living in Long Island. The couple and the two children then moved to Florida. When Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia in November, Nikolas and his brother were left in the care of a family member, the newspaper reports.
“I know she had been having some issues with them, especially the older one. He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. [He] did have some kind of emotional or difficulties,” Barbara Kumbatovich, Lynda’s sister-in-law, told the newspaper. “[Lynda] kept a really close handle on both boys. They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do like not coming home on time, maybe being disrespectful.”
Another family member, who was not identified, told the newspaper that Nikolas’ adoptive father died of a heart attack when Nikolas was young. The family member said Nikolas Cruz had been diagnosed with autism and Lynda had sought counseling for him from a young age.
“She did her best getting him any help he needed,” the family member told the newspaper.
Cruz eventually moved in with a classmate’s family after he was unhappy with where he was living after his mother’s death.
“The family is devastated, they didn’t see this coming. They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished,” Jim Lewis, an attorney representing the family who took Cruz in told the newspaper. “He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”
Neighbors told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz would harass neighbors and get into trouble while he was growing up and that police came to his home multiple times. Neighbors said police “were called to the Cruz house several times” and one woman alleged that “she caught Nikolas Cruz peeking in her window once. She also told the paper that he banged his head against a brick wall when he didn’t want to go to school.”
A person who knew Cruz, Nicholas Coke, told the Miami Herald that Cruz was a loner who left school and moved to North Florida after his mother died. “He had a lot of problems in middle school. You never think anyone you know is going to do something like this,” Coke told the newspaper.
“He was psycho, for sure,” a student who knew Cruz told WPLG-TV. “He was crazy because he liked to kill small things, like little animals — frogs and other animals like that and he just had a crazy mind. He was racist and he was just crazy.”
Police received a tip that the suspect was possibly watching videos on Youtube about how to make bombs, according to police scanner transmissions. Police were searching the building as a precaution after learning about that information, but it is not known if there were any bombs left in the school.
The person who gave police the tip also had messages exchanged with the suspect.
Police were at the suspect’s home searching for more information about him. He lives in the 11000 block of NW 47th Drive in Parkland. They were also at another location where he previously lived.
Cruz had been working as a cashier at a Dollar Tree store after leaving high school, according to the New York Times.
While some on social media have been spreading claims that Cruz is a registered Democrat, a search of the Florida voter database with his birthdate, September 24, 1998, shows that he is not a registered voter.
Other social media users have claimed that Cruz can be seen wearing an “Antifa” shirt, but the photo being circulated via a fake Antifa account is another man named Marcel Fontaine, according to Buzzfeed News, which has rounded up details on several hoaxes and fake stories related to the shooting.
Alicia Blonde told MSNBC that Cruz was her student and that he “often wore his JROTC uniform, but was an undisciplined student, Blonde said. Cruz also was reluctant to speak in Spanish, despite his Hispanic background.”
“I think there was some pride issues there. He didn’t feel comfortable in his own skin and culture,” Blonde said to the network.
5. Horrific Videos Captured the Moment Panicked Students Hid in Classrooms as Gunshots Rang Out During the 18th Shooting at a School in 2018
A student who is inside the school told CBS Miami through text message, “All of a sudden there was a really loud noise…..people are crying” and hiding in “the closet.”
A video recorded by a student captured the gunshots:
Michael Katz told ABC News, “It was really loud. Then I heard it again. Then I heard frantic screaming. I’ve never heard such loud screams in my life. Then we realized there was a shooting at my school.”
Students took to Twitter to provide updates about the situation, saying they’ve heard several shots and are hiding in the school.
Jay Golden, of Parkland, whose daughter, Rachel is a senior at the high school. She is still inside the school, Golden told the Sun-Sentinel.
“She was crying, she’s scared. She’s been texting back and forth. She’s OK at the moment,” he told the newspaper. “I’m freaking out. This is crazy, this stuff shouldn’t be going on in these schools. People are crazy. I don’t know what goes on through these people’s minds these days, it’s a scary thing. It’s one of those things – you don’t want to put a metal protector and treat them like prisoners but they have to figure something out. You put your kids in school and it’s supposed to be a safe place and this stuff happens all the time.”
Federal authorities responded to the scene, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is typical in active shooter incidents.
“ATF agents from the Miami Field Division are responding to reports of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The investigation is ongoing and active,” the ATF tweeted.
About 2,900 students are enrolled at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, according to its website. Police were still searching the building Wednesday night.
The school is part of the Broward County Public Schools system.
President Donald Trump was made aware of the situation, the White House says.
“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 tweeted. “Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott. We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting.”
There have been 17 other shootings on school campuses around the country already this year. Everytown for Gun Safety defines those shootings as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials.”
Included in that total is a shooting that occurred in Benton, Kentucky, on January 23. A 15-year-old student opened fire on classmates, killing two other 15-year-olds and injuring 18 other people. Just a day earlier, on January 22, a 15-year-old girl was shot by another student at a high school in Italy, Texas. She survived the shooting and the gunman was arrested.
The other shootings have not been as high-profile, according to NPR, which compiled a list of the incidents.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there were multiple shootings in February. On February 8, a gun was fired at The Metropolitan High School in New York City.
“A 17 year-old male student fired a gun, hitting the floor of a classrom. No injuries were reported, and police took the student in custody for questioning,” according to Everytown.
On February 5, a gun was fired but no one was injured at Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, Wisconsin.
“A school liaison officer was sitting on a bench talking with some students when a third-grader pressed the trigger on the officer’s holstered weapon, causing it to fire and strike the floor. The holster was equipped with a trigger guard designed to prevent such accidental discharges, so the department is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the event,” Everytown writes.
Also on February 5, a 17-year-old student was shot in the chest at Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, NBC Washington reports.
On January 31, a shot was fired during a basketball game at Lincoln High School in Philadelphia. A man was shot twice in the leg, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On the same day as the Texas shooting, a student was wounded in the parking lot of a New Orleans charter school. On January 26, a gun was fired during an altercation at Dearborn High School in Michigan, but no one was injured. A day earlier, on January 25, a gun was fired at Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama, during a disagreement between two students.
“A disagreement between two 16-year-old students escalated when Jonah Neal pulled out a handgun. School administrators noticed the weapon and tried to calm him; Neal then fled across campus. He was pursued by staff until he fired the gun four or five times into the air. Nobody was injured. Neal was taken into custody and charged for multiple offenses, including possession of a weapon on school property,” according to Everytown.
On January 20, a man was shot and killed on the campus of Wake Forest University. The victim was a student at Winston-Salem State University and was attending a sorority party.
On January 15, a bullet was fired into a dorm room in Marshall, Texas, on the campus of Wiley College.
On January 10, there were three shootings on the same day. The first was a suicide at Coronado Elementary School in Arizona. Then a student fired a shot in a classroom at Grayson College in Texas, but nobody was hit. Police say it was an accidental discharge during a criminal justice class. And a shot was fired at a building on the campus of Cal State San Bernardino. No one was injured there.
On January 6, a shot was fired at a school bus carrying students in Iowa, shattering a window, but not causing injuries. On January 4, two shots were fired into a Seattle high school classroom. And on that same day a man shot himself in the parking lot of an empty elementary school in Michigan.
“We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue,” said Katherine W. Schweit, a former FBI official who co-authore a study on active shooting incidents, told the Times.