What to Know About Alleged Florida School Shooter Nikolas Cruz
Nikloas Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who was expelled for disciplinary reasons, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Wednesday following the deadly mass shooting on the school’s campus.
The 19-year-old is suspected of opening fire on students and faculty at the high school Wednesday, killing at least 17 people and injuring at least 14 others in what became the 18th school shooting of the year. The suspect was taken into custody about an hour after fleeing school grounds.
Authorities said Cruz used an AR-15 rifle — a semi-automatic assault-style rifle that has been used in numerous other mass shootings — in the shooting. Described by former classmates as “loner,” Cruz is an orphaned teenager whose mother died in November 2017, according to The Sun-Sentinel. His mother and her husband, who died years ago, according to the paper, had adopted Cruz and his biological brother. The two boys had then moved in with a family friend, an attorney for the family told the Associated Press.
“This totally came out of left field. They had no idea, no predilection,” James Lewis, the attorney, said. “They had no clue that this kid was dangerous,” he added.
More than 3,200 students attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where approximately 130 teachers work. Videos published as the shooting unfolded showed dozens of students streaming out of classrooms as authorities escorted them out of classrooms following a lockdown. Graphic images and videos posted by students inside these classrooms showed children crying and blood on the floors in the aftermath.
Authorities believed the suspected shooter worked alone.
Accounts from Peers
Students at the school described Cruz as a “loner” and a “troubled kid’ in interviews after the suspected shooter opened fire at his former high school. Some said Cruz was a quiet “outcast.” Others described him as someone who would act up when he was angry and describe the kinds of weapons he owned.
“All he would talk about is guns, knives and hunting,” former classmate Joshua Charo, 16, told the Miami Herald. “I can’t say I was shocked. From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”
One student said kids at the school joked that Cruz would end up opening fire at the school one day — a similar anecdote used by former classmates of Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people and injured 53 others at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016.
“A lot of kids threw jokes around like that, saying that he would be the one to shoot up the school. It turns out, you know, everyone predicted it,” one student told WJXT, a Jacksonville, Florida, news station. “It’s crazy.”
— Vic Micolucci WJXT (@WJXTvic) February 14, 2018
Jim Gard, a math teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who taught Cruz in 2016, told CNN Cruz was “a quiet kid in class” and “never had any problems” with him before he was expelled. But, speaking with Miami Herald, Gard said that he believed an email from the school administration had circulated among teachers, warning that Cruz had made threats against other students.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard said. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Ocean Parodie, a 17-year-old student at the school, told The Daily Beast Cruz once yelled in class. “He was upset and just started yelling at the teacher,” Parodie said. “The teacher was trying to help him and he just took it the wrong way.”
Superintendent Robert Runcie of the Broward County School District told reporters school officials had received no warnings or threats of the shooting before it happened. “Potentially there could have been signs out there,” he said. “But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
Life at Home
Cruz lived with a friend’s family after the death of his mother in November and worked at a local dollar store while attending school at an adult education center, the attorney for the family said.
He “seemed to be getting his life back together, getting over his depression, the loss of his mother,” Lewis, the attorney, told the Associated Press. “And this totally came out of left field.”
Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year. Though officials had declined to say why Cruz had been expelled, the mother of one student told the New York Times he had brought knives to campus.
After Cruz’s mother died in November, he lived with his friend’s family, who, according to their attorney. At their home, Cruz had a firearm locked in a cabinet, Lewis said, adding that there are “a lot” of 18- and 19-year-olds with firearms in the area. “This is about something went seriously wrong with this kid, and no one can explain it right now,” Lewis said.
The family had another son who attended the school, Lewis said, and was on campus during the shooting. The son had no involvement in the shooting, Lewis said. He said the family did recall Cruz saying on Wednesday morning that he would not be going to school because he “doesn’t go to school on Valentine’s Day.”
“So why this happened?” Nobody say it coming and nobody knows why,” the attorney said.
Helen Pasciolla, a retired neighbor who lives in the Cruz family’s former neighborhood in Parkland, told the New York Times that Cruz had regular behavioral problems. Pasciolla said their mother would sometimes call the police to come over and talk to Cruz.
“Nikolas has behavioral problems, I think, but I never thought he would be violent,” Pasciolla said to the Times.
Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN the suspected shooter was getting treatment from a mental health clinic for a period of time. “It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said. “We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected … Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. … In this case, we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid.”
Emerging Social Media Profile
Authorities have begun looking into what they describe as Cruz’s social media profile, findings which Sheriff Israel described to reporters as “very, very disturbing.”
Unverified images on social media accounts cited by multiple media sources appear to show a man holding firearms, wielding knives, and showing a collection of guns on a bed.
Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday’s attack, told AP he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo where he posed with a gun in front of his face.
A 17-year-old junior named Dakota Mentcher also recalled to AP that Cruz had posted Instagrams about killing animals. Mentcher said Cruz would also talk about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.
“He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there,” Mentcher said. “I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him.”
[Via / time.com]