Florida school shooter identified as 19yo former student
The gunman had an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and possibly a handgun when he entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire. He was apprehended "without incident" off-campus about an hour after the shooting unfolded, having caused at least 17 deaths and injuring at least a dozen people.
The suspected attacker has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told media that the man was a former student of the school.
Cruz was “expelled for disciplinary reasons,” Israel said during a media briefing where he confirmed the identity of the suspect.
Cruz had been banned from campus for making threats in the past, the Miami Herald reported, citing a teacher at the school.
Math teacher Jim Gard, interviewed by the newspaper, said the teachers were warned not to allow Cruz walk onto campus with a backpack.
“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard said.
Cruz was well known to have troubles with “every single teacher” at the school, a senior student told CBS.
“Every single teacher he ever had, there was a problem," the unnamed student said.
Broward County Mayor Beam Furr revealed in an interview with CNN that Cruz was struggling with mental health issues and used to receive treatment in a mental health hospital. Furr added that although he is not aware if Cruz was monitored by law enforcement, “it wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him.”
“He had not been back to the clinic for over a year. There’s been a time where he was receiving treatment and then stopped,” Furr said.
While at school, Cruz was enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Program Corp [JROTC], which is sponsored by the US military, former member of the program Jillian Davis told Reuters. She recounted Cruz talking about “knives and guns,” noting that “no one ever took him seriously.”
Another student told WSVN that Cruz was obsessed with guns and would often boast about his home arsenal in conversations with fellow students. “He shot guns because he felt it gave him, I guess, an exhilarating feeling. He showed me [his guns] personally through his phone,” the student said, describing Cruz as a “troubled kid.”
Cruz recently lost his mother and was living with a family that took him in after she died in November 2017, NBC 6 reported. Cruz’s father died back in 2004. An attorney for the family told media that nothing suggested the teenager would launch an attack on his former school.
Unconfirmed screenshots of what purports to be Cruz’s Instagram page have been posted online. The account, now deleted, features photos of Cruz wearing a black mask and posing with a handgun and multiple knives.
Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz posted photos on Instagram, under the name nikolascruzmakarov, of his "arsenal" of weapons, along with pictures of bullets, a target and the view of his street through a holographic sight https://t.co/l7jJXBZlt5#breakingpic.twitter.com/1qP76S1FwL— Heavy.com (@HeavySan) February 15, 2018
The AR-15 rifle Cruz used to gun down the students was obtained legally, family attorney Jim Lewis told The Sun Sentinel, adding that although he was told by his friend’s family to keep the gun locked, he had full access to the weapon.
“The family made him keep it in a locked gun cabinet in the house but he had a key,” Lewis said.
Cruz and his brother were adopted at birth by his now deceased parents, Barbara Kumbatovich, a family member, told the newspaper. Another relative, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that Cruz was autistic.
CBS News reported that prior to the attack Cruz triggered the fire alarm, which caused panic.
Cruz was wearing a gas mask and could have used smoke bombs to trigger the fire alarm, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) told CNN.
“He went and set off the fire alarm so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall, and there, the carnage began,” Nelson said.
Witnesses’ reports appear to confirm this timeline. One of the students who was locked inside during the incident told CBS News that the school had already conducted a fire drill in the morning, so the students were surprised at what they thought was another one.
The suspect reportedly attempted to flee the scene by blending in with other students.
Accounts by senior students who spoke to media indicate that the suspect was known to have a stock of weapons at home.
Israel said the police are now “dissecting” the suspect’s social media accounts, adding that “the things on social media that he was on and some of the things that came to mind are very, very disturbing."
While it is still being speculated what triggered the shooter, a witness said that students at the school used to joke that if anyone were to become a school shooter, it would be Cruz.
“Honestly, a lot of people were saying it was gonna be him,” the student told WJXT, adding that “it turns out, everyone predicted it.”
The student said that Cruz was well prepared for the attack, knew the plan of the building and was present during fire drills.
His motives are unknown so far.