A racist group in Florida has admitted that accused high school shooter Nikolas Cruz had attended training events. The Anti-Defamation League released information on February 15, the day after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, that said Cruz was linked to a group known as the Republic of Florida. The group adheres to typical racist and neo-Nazi philosophy such as allegiance to white-European descendant Americans and opposing mixed race and gay marriage.
The Tallahassee Democrat later reported that authorities in the area where ROF is based couldn’t find any link between Cruz and the group.
Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman High School, is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. On the day of the shooting, a thread appeared on the controversial forum 4Chan saying that Cruz was a member of the Republic of Florida. The original 4Chan poster said that Republic of Florida members were saying their only surprise was that the target hadn’t been a government building.
During the writing of this article, the group’s YouTube channel was deleted.
Here’s what you need to know about the Republic of Florida:
1. The Republic of Florida’s Leader Says Nikolas Cruz ‘Used Our Training to Do What He Did Yesterday’
The man purported by many to be the leader of the Republic of Florida, Jordan Jereb, told the ADL that Cruz was brought to the group by another member. Jereb added that Cruz had carpooled with other southern Florida members to attend events in Tallahassee. The leader stressed to the ADL that no orders were ever given regarding a school shooting. Speaking to the Daily Beast, Jereb said that Cruz “was part of our organization” and that “He probably used that training to do what he did yesterday. Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out.” Jereb said that someone in the group bought Cruz a gun. Jereb said, “I think somebody bought him a Mosin-Nagant, but that’s bolt action. He had a semi-automatic in the school. He may have buried it in his survival cache. We encourage members to do that.”
In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Jereb described his group as not willing to “participate in the modern world.” Jereb said that he didn’t know Cruz and that the suspect “acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did.” The white supremacist then alluded to Cruz possibly having trouble with a girl and suggesting that the Valentine’s Day timing of the shooting wasn’t a coincidence.
2. The Group First Came to National Attention in 2015 After they Protested the Burning of a Confederate Flag
The Souther Poverty Law Center’s information article on the Republic of Florida cites an incident in April 2015 which thrust them in to the national spotlight. The group protested, along with the League of the South, a confederate flag burning by student protesters from Florida State University. The incident occurred at the Old Capitol Building in Tallahassee. The ROF’s counter to the protest was to burn a Soviet flag. In the comments section of that article, a commenter named Jordan Jereb wrote, “Screw mainstream America. I only need 1% of the population to accomplish MY goals.”
The group’s website leads with a quote from white supremacist David Lane that reads, “That race whose males will not fight to death to keep and mate with their females will perish.” The sections on the website include references on how to join, how to start your own cell as well as article such as “Signs of a sick and dying nation” and “Alpha Males Vs. Beta Males.”
3. The Republic of Florida Enjoyed a ‘Resurgence’ in 2017
WTXL reported in the summer of 2017 that the Republic of Florida was in a period of “resurgence” in Tallahassee. The group first made an appearance on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hatewatch” in 2015. A Tallahassee resident, Jay Godin, who says he was a victim of ROF told WTXL, “I really feel like they’re not any different from a terrorist group in the Middle East or anywhere else — or even just like a gang.” Godin says that he had been repeatedly threatened by the group on social media.
4. Jordan Jereb Was Accused in 2016 of Trying to Extort Money from a Top Staffer in Governor Rick Scott’s Administration
The Tallahassee Democrat reported in May 2016 that Jereb had been arrested over a $60 debt. Jereb had apparently threatened a “high-ranking member of Gov. Rick Scott’s office.” Jereb was accused of trying to extort money from Stuart Pollins, a policy coordinator. The white supremacist said that Jereb claimed Pollins’ son owed money. In one voicemail that Jereb was accused of leaving on Pollins’ phone, he said, “You don’t mess with me and you don’t mess with the R.O.F.” Another message asked Pollins to “use his imagination” as to what would happen if the debt wasn’t repaid.
5. This Is the Second School Shooting in 2 Months With Links to Far-Right Politics
In December 2017, William Atchison killed two students before turning the gun on himself at Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico. Atchison was a regular poster on racist website The Daily Stormer where he went by the monikers, “Future Mass Shooter” and “Adam Lanza.” Atchison had been interviewed by the FBI in 2016 about his online activities, such as asking where he could buy assault rifles for a mass shooting. Atchison evaded investigators by saying he was merely “trolling.” A Daily Beast feature on Atchison referred to him as living “a prolific life as a white supremacist, pro-Trump meme peddler who was most known for his obsession with school shooters.”