On Wednesday, after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was arrested and accused of the crime. Here are seven things to know about the alleged shooter:
1. Cruz reportedly trained with a white supremacist group, though law enforcement says they have no evidence to support the claim. An early report by the Anti-Defamation League indicated that Cruz had trained with a white supremacist group; however, law enforcement has since pushed back on that claim. “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,” the ADL reported. The Republic of Florida’s website states, “Republic Of Florida is a white civil rights organization fighting for white Identitarian politics, And the ultimate creation of a white ethnostate so we can be free from anti-white policies and have policies that reflect our values as white westerners. The ROF Militia is the armed forces of the Republic Of Florida.” The group’s captain, Jordan Jereb, told The Daily Beast, “There’s a very real sense of feminism being a cancer. That could’ve played into what he did, but we have female members of RoF … we’re not a big fan of Jews. I think there were a lot of Jews at the school that might have been messing with him.” Local law enforcement say they have no evidence of connection between Cruz and the ROF. Jereb has since called his statement to the ADL a “legit misunderstanding,” suggesting he had mistaken Cruz for another “Nikolas” who trained with the group.
2. Cruz was adopted as a child. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Cruz was adopted as a child by Roger and Linda Cruz; they lived in Long island but later moved to Florida. Roger Cruz reportedly died of a heart attack when Cruz was young; Linda died of pneumonia last November. Cruz and his brother were reportedly left in the care of a family member, but Cruz was living with a friend’s family at the time of the massacre. An attorney for the friend’s family, Jim Lewis, told the Miami Herald that Cruz slept late on Wednesday, telling his friend, “It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day.” Lewis added that Cruz already owned the AR-15 used in the shooting before he moved in.
3. Cruz was expelled from the high school where he allegedly committed the massacre. He was expelled after threatening students, according to the Miami Herald. According to Jim Gard, a math teacher who taught Cruz last year, “We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him. There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.” Gard added that the school emailed teachers that Cruz should not be allowed on campus with a backpack. The Associated Press reported Cruz was expelled after he fought with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Gard told The New York Times that Cruz was obsessed with a girl at the school, “to the point of stalking her.”
4. Cruz had visited a mental health clinic. Broward Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz had visited a mental health clinic. Furr added, “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.” CNN reported Cruz bought the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting and passed a background check.
5. Cruz allegedly posted photos of guns and knives on social media. According to Heavy, “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.” Cruz allegedly posted a photo of a gun and wrote in 2016, “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.” In 2015, he allegedly posted a meme of a target with bullet holes in it, writing, “Group therapy, sometimes it works,” adding the caption, “It really does f*cking work give it a try ;).” Cruz reportedly also left this comment on a video about the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas: “I am going to do what he did.”
6. A YouTube vlogger said he alerted the FBI about Cruz after Cruz commented on one of his videos. Ben Bennight told Buzzfeed News that Cruz left the comment, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Bennight said he alerted the FBI and YouTube. He said he spoke to the FBI, recalling, “They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person. I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”
7. Cruz was temporarily part of the U.S. Army JROTC program at Douglas High School. Another member, Giovanni Watford, said Cruz “was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face,” and that Cruz “talked about guns a lot.” He added that Cruz complained about being bullied, adding, Cruz “had a beef with one kid.”
This article has been updated as new details have emerged.