Details continue to emerge surrounding the young man suspected of killing at least 17 students and injuring scores of others on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Police believe that Nikolas Cruz, 19, set off a fire alarm around 2:30 p.m. before shooting an AR-15 at teachers and students. He is said to have worn a has mask and reportedly used smoke grenades before concealing himself among fleeing students, according to WSVN-TV.
It is a horrific and tragic event that the Miami Herald appropriately called “an American nightmare.”
Cruz was a former student at the school who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons,” and had reportedly been told he was not permitted to have a book bag on campus.
Former classmates have offered up details about Cruz since yesterday’s shooting, calling him a “loner,” strange, “sketchy” and “a little off,” among other descriptors, as Fox News reported.
Many of the details are still fuzzy, as police continue to put together pieces of the tragic puzzle. Marjory Stoneman student Victoria Olvera told the Associated Press said Cruz was expelled last year after fighting with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, though additional details are not readily available.
— Franklin White (@FranklinWSVN) February 14, 2018
While some people who knew Cruz have expressed surprise that he is the suspect, others have spoken out and said that they suspected all along that he would be capable of such a crime.
“He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there,” former friend Dakota Mutchler, 17, said of Cruz. “I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him.”
Another student eerily proclaimed that “everyone predicted it” would happen. That unnamed student added, “Honestly, a lot of people were saying it was gonna be him.”
— Vic Micolucci WJXT (@WJXTvic) February 14, 2018
Former student Giovonni Watford told BuzzFeed that something about Cruz was “off” and that the teen had complained about being bullied. Watford’s brother, Mike, confirmed the notion that Cruz was tired of being picked on.
“He was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face,” Giovonni Watford said.
Investigators have been pouring over Cruz’s social media footprint to look for clues and other relevant information. So far, they have reportedly found some alarming elements that Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel called “very, very disturbing.”
My heart is heavy over the school shooting in Florida. Keeping all affected in my thoughts & prayers.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) February 14, 2018
“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on, and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.
CNN has more about the bizarre and disturbing social media footprint:
He had a variety of gun and violence-related postings on social media sites.
Postings under the name Nikolas Cruz included threatening comments under videos on YouTube and other sites, including “I whana shoot people with my AR-15” (sic), “I wanna die Fighting killing s**t ton of people” and “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.”
On his Instagram page, Cruz posted a photo of a shotgun, in another photo he is shown brandishing a pistol that appears to be a type of BB gun. In other pictures he is covering his face with a kerchief, and brandishing long knives.
Florida Gov. Scott on deadly school shooting: "How could this ever happen in this country? … You come to the conclusion that this is just absolutely pure evil." https://t.co/VeNemFFNDP pic.twitter.com/mtHCvI3rbV
— ABC News (@ABC) February 15, 2018
Details of Cruz’s personal and family life also emerged, with one family member telling ABC News that he was adopted early on by loving parents Roger and Lynda Cruz.
His father, Roger, died in 2005, and his mother, Lynda, reportedly died this past November after a surprising battle with the flu led to pneumonia.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that Cruz struggled in recent years, with Barbara Kumbatovich, sister-in-law of Lynda Cruz, telling the outlet what she knew of the family. Kumbatovich, who lives in New York, had only met Cruz and his biological brother, Zachary, whom the Cruzes also adopted, one time when they were young.
Bomb squad from @PBCountySheriff arrives at mobile home park west of Lantana. Deputies preparing to serve search warrant. Sources tell us this is related to Broward school massacre. @CBS12 pic.twitter.com/alF0rRmDiY
— Chuck Weber (@ChuckWeber12) February 15, 2018
“I know [Lynda] 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,” she said. “[He] did have some kind of emotional or difficulties. [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.”
Cruz is said to have moved in with family friends after his mother’s death, but he wasn’t happy.
BREAKING | Stoneman Douglas High School shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz is expected to arrive at the Broward County Jail. The latest on the shooting >> http://bit.ly/2o5TZ6R
Posted by ABC Action News – WFTS – Tampa Bay on Thursday, February 15, 2018
So, he moved in with a friend’s family in November and got a job at a local dollar store. That family is horrified by Wednesday’s events and is cooperating with authorities, according to multiple outlets.
Police were investigating a mobile home on Wednesday evening, with reports that there was a potential explosive device at the scene. Details are unclear, though some outlets reported that this is the home where Cruz had been staying.