A 19-year-old former student has been identified as the suspect in a shooting at a Florida high school that left at least 17 people dead and 15 others wounded.
Nikolas Cruz, who a teacher says was previously identified as a threat to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was arrested after the shooting, authorities said. He was expelled from the Parkland school for disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference.
Israel said they are examining “very, very disturbing” social media posts investigators have uncovered. Some of those posts, confirmed by Heavy, show Cruz holding weapons and talking about shooting targets as therapy. Students say that Cruz, whose adoptive mother died in November, often talked about guns. Cruz was currently enrolled in the Broward County school district, but it is not clear where or if he was attending classes. The district’s superintendent said he could not provide any other information about him because of federal privacy laws.
Israel said the victims were killed inside the school, just outside and on a road nearby, with two victims dying at the hospital. The victims included students and adults. At least 14 victims were taken to local hospitals after the shooting at the school, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.
The motive for the Valentine’s Day shooting is not yet known. Cruz was initially identified by the media as Nicolas de Jesus Cruz and Nicolas Cruz and also goes by Nick Cruz. But the sheriff’s office clarified the correct spelling is Nikolas Cruz.
According to CNN, an AR-15-style rifle was recovered by police. It is not known how he obtained the weapon and if it was legally owned. CNN reports that Cruz purchased the gun himself in the past year and passed a background check.
The sheriff said Cruz had multiple magazines with him. Florida Senator Bill Nelson told CNN the shooter wore a gas mask and had smoke grenades. Nelson said the gunman set off the fire alarm to get students into the hallways.
“It was toward the end of the day, it was fourth period,” an 18-year-old student at the high school told Heavy. “I started to put my head down in class and next thing you know I heard about 6 to 7 shots in the classroom right next to me on the first floor of the freshman building. We all just decided to pile in one corner, we all decided to just stay put, because we didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know if it was real or fake. We all kept quiet, the next thing we know the school shooter shot the window, glass went everywhere. We all put our heads down, he put the gun inside the window, turned his gun and shot three or four bullets, I heard a kid in my class with his knee shot and another school got shot and she was just bleeding everywhere. It was horrifying.”
The student said he grabbed a towel and gave it to a teacher who tied it around the wounded student’s leg. SWAT officers came about 15 minutes later to get the students out of the classroom.
The victims have not been publicly identified. Anyone with information about the shooting or the shooter is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI. Videos and images of the shooting and any other information about it or the gunman can be uploaded through the FBI website here.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Just finished update from fed authorities on #FloridaSchoolShooting. It is clear attack was designed & executed to maximize loss of life. In days ahead (it) will become increasingly evident that killer in today’s #FloridaSchoolShooting gave plenty of indications of what was to come.”
Nikolas Cruz is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, CNN reports. Local, state and federal authorities are investigating the shooting.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cruz, Who Told a Friend ‘I Don’t Go to School on Valentine’s Day,’ Was Arrested Without Incident After Fleeing From the School by Mixing With Students
Nick Cruz was taken into custody at a Parkland home not far from the school about about 4 p.m. The shooting was first reported about 2 p.m. It is not clear how Cruz escaped from the school, but he possibly fled with students during the chaos. CNN reports that he mixed himself in with those leaving the school in an effort to escape.
According to police scanner transmissions, officers were tracking the suspect’s movements in the school through security cameras and had a description of the clothing he was wearing. They later had witnesses identify him as the shooter after he was taken into custody.
“Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to an active shooter situation at a Broward County school Wednesday afternoon,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release. “Responding deputies were met with hundreds of students fleeing the school. Investigators later learned that the shooter had concealed himself in the crowd and was among those running out of the school. After watching school security video, investigators were able to identify the shooter as Nikolas Cruz, 19. Cruz had attended and was expelled from the school the previous year.”
The sheriff’s office said Cruz was arrested by the Coconut Creek Police Department in a neighborhood in Coral Springs.
Video showed Cruz on the ground being handcuffed and then being ledd into a Broward County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
“Cruz exhibited labored breathing. He was transported to a local hospital as a precaution for medical clearance,” the sheriff’s office said.
He was later seen being transported to jail.
You can listen to police scanner audio from the shooting below:
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters, “the shooter was not a current student.” He added,” it’s catastrophic. There really are no words. I don’t know why he left,” the school. He added that the suspect was taken into custody without incident.
Cruz was living with a friend’s family after his adoptive mother died. An attorney representing that family told the Miami Herald that Cruz slept in Wednesday morning and didn’t go to school, telling his friend, “‘It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day,’” the lawyer said.
The lawyer, Jim Lewis, told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz already owned the AR-15 used in the shooting before he moved in with the family.
“It was his gun,” Lewis told the newspaper. “The family made him keep it in a locked gun cabinet in the house but he had a key.”
2. Cruz Was Expelled After a Fight, Was Abusive Toward His Ex-Girlfriend & Was Deemed to Be a Threat to Other Students, a Teacher & a Classmate Say
Nick Cruz was a former student at the school and was reported for making threats to students in the past, the Miami Herald reports.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Jim Gard, a math teacher who had the suspected shooter in his class last year, told the newspaper. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Gard said the school administration sent out an email warning teachers that the student had made threats against others in the past and should not be allowed on the campus with a backpack.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said that Cruz was expelled from Douglas High School at some point for disciplinary issues. He possibly later attended another local high school, J.P. Taravella High School, but the sheriff said they are still not clear how long he was there. Israel did not provide details about Cruz’s expulsion.
According to The Associated Press, Cruz was expelled after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Victoria Olvera told the AP that Cruz was abusive toward his ex-girlfriend.
Gard told the New York Times, Cruz was obsessed with a girl at the school, “to the point of stalking her.”
Israel told the public, “If you see something, say something. If anybody has any indicator that someone’s going through a behavioral change, or on their social media that there are disturbing photos, perhaps bombs or firearms or just videos or pictures that are just not right, that there’s something off, please make sure law enforcement knows about it.”
When asked if there were signs with the suspect, he said, “I believe there will” indicators uncovered once investigators have completed examining the suspect’s social media and interviewing him and those who know him. “Our investigators certainly began dissecting social media.”
School officials have not released any information about possible threats made by the suspect, and the district’s superintendent told reporters that there was no warning it was going to happen.
“It’s a day that you pray every day when you get up that you will never have to see. It is in front of us,” Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said at a press briefing. “I ask the community for prayers and their support for the children and their families. We received no warning… Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
Broward Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz was a client at a mental health clinic and had been “dealing with mental health issues.” He had been undergoing some treatment, Furr said, but he did not go into detail about that.
“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,” Furr said.
CNN is reporting that Cruz bought the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting himself and passed a background check. At a press conference, Sheriff Israel said he thinks people undergoing treatment for mental illness should not be able to purchase or carry handguns.
“While people who are the victim of mental health illnesses are being treated, in the opinion of this sheriff, they should not be able to buy, surround themselves, purchase or carry a handgun,” he said. “Those two things don’t mix.”
3. He Posted Photos of Guns & Knives on Instagram, Calling His Weapons an ‘Arsenal’ & Had a MAGA Hat on in His Profile Picture
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.
Instagram often takes down pages of shooting suspects from public view at the request of law enforcement.
In 2016, he posted a photo of a shotgun he said he wanted to buy.
“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,” he wrote in 2016.
He also posted multiple photos in January 2016 of himself holding knives.
In 2015, he posted a screenshot of a Google search for the phrase, “what does allahu akbar.” He then wrote a caption that included an anti-Muslim slur, “Well at least we now know what it means when a sand durka says “allahu Akbar” ??????” While some have been using that post to claim that he was pro-ISIS or supporter of Islamic terrorism, comments he made on the Instagram post indicated he wanted to kill terrorists and made jokes about terrorism.
“Durka durka Mohamed jihad .. how do I work this oh oh I mess up cooo booom!!” he wrote. He then added, “durka durka … bam boom explosions,” with a series of bomb smilies.
Ocean Parodie, a 17-year-old student at Broward County school, told The Daily Beast, “I knew him to be passive aggressive but not violent. He was rude to people. He had an act up like he was tough. He never got into, like, physical fights with anyone, but he did get into verbal arguments. I just thought he dropped out of school, I didn’t think he would do anything. He always kept a low profile.”
Parodie added, “He was definitely not accepted at our school socially. People saw him as someone who was different than the normal people at our school.” She said he “seemed really extreme” and “liked hating on” Islam, making offensive jokes and deriding Muslims as “terrorists and bombers.” She added that she had seen him wearing a Trump hat.
Also in 2015, he posted a meme of a target with bullet holes in it with the words “Group therapy, sometimes it works.” He added in the caption, “It really does f*cking work give it a try ;).”
Cruz began using a new Instagram page in 2017, which has also been deleted, but has been confirmed to belong to him by Heavy. The New York Times also verified the page. In that page, @nikolascruzmakarov, he is wearing a Donald Trump campaign “Make America Great Again” hat. Makarov is the name of a Russian-made pistol.
In one photo, which you can see below, he displayed various guns on a bed, along with body armor and wrote in the caption, “arsenal.”
You can see some of the photos of his weapons below:
Cruz also posted a disturbing photo of a bloody, dead toad. He wrote, “These things killed my dog. So I kill them pretty much. #killingtoads.” He wrote simply in his Instagram profile header, “Annihilator.”
CNN reports that a user named Nikolas Cruz left comments on several Youtube videos in which he talked about shooting people and violence.
Nine months ago, the user posted on a video clip from the NatGeo show “Alaska State Troopers: Armed and Dangerous,” writing, “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.”
Six months ago, the user wrote, “Im going watch them sheep fall f*ck antifa i wish to kill as many as i can,” on a Youtube video titled “Antifa Gun Club.”
Also nine months ago, Cruz commented, “I am going to do what he did,” on a video about the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas.
CNN says the user wrote on other posts, “I whana shoot people with my AR-15 (sic)” and “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people.” The user also wrote, “Elliot rodger will not be forgotten,” a reference to the 22-year-old California man who killed six people and wounded 14 others near UC Santa Barbara in 2014 before killing himself.
A YouTube user named “BentheBondsman” posted a video Wednesday night saying that the FBI visited him to talk about Cruz because a user named Nikolas Cruz commented on one of his videos recently.
He said he reported the comment, “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” after seeing it in September. He submitted a report to Youtube and it was deleted, and he submitted a tip of it to the FBI. He said two agents visited him in September about the post. BentheBondsman said he talked to agents again after the shooting.
4. A Student Says ‘Everyone Predicted’ the Suspect Would Be the Shooter
In 2015, Nikolas Cruz posted a photo of himself giving the middle finger with the caption, “F*ck youuuuuuuuuuuu allllll.”
A student at the school told WJXT-TV’s Vic Micolucci that students thought Cruz would be the suspect.
“Honestly a lot of people were saying it was going to be him,” the student said. “A lot of kids threw jokes around like that, saying that he’s the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out, you know, everyone predicted it. That’s crazy. He was on the third floor, he knows the school layout. He knows where everyone would be at. He’s been in fire drills, he’s prepared for this stuff.”
Students have said that fire alarms went off before the shooting and they initially thought it was a drill. It is not clear if a drill was planned or if someone pulled the alarm.
The student told WFOR that Cruz had showed him his guns after he got kicked out of school.
Matthew Walker, a 17-year-old junior told WFOR-TV, “He was going class to class just shooting at random kids. Everything he posts (on social media) is about weapons. It’s sick.”
A student who knows Cruz told the news station, “He always had guns on him and stuff like that. He was a little bit of a troubled kid.”
Cruz was at one point part of the U.S. Army JROTC program at Douglas High School, a fellow member of the program, Giovanni Watford, told Buzzfeed News. He called Cruz a “sketchy kid,” adding that he “was off” and “was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face.”
Watford said Cruz “talked about guns a lot.” He also said Cruz complained often about bullying and said Cruz “had beef with one kid.” Watford’s brother Mike, told Buzzfeed News, that Cruz talked about “how tired he was of everyone picking on him and the staff doing nothing about it,” and said, “something definitely pushed him.”
Cruz was adopted by his parents, Roger and Lynda Cruz, as a young child, a family member told ABC News. Both of his adopted parents are dead. Lynda Cruz died last year, ABC News reports. An obituary shows she died in November. She is pictured on that obituary page holding her young son.
A family member told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz and his biological younger brother were adopted by Lydia and Roger Cruz while they were living in Long Island. The couple and the two children then moved to Florida. When Lynda Cruz died in November, Nikolas and his brother were left in the care of a family member, the newspaper reports.
“I know she 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. [He] did have some kind of emotional or difficulties,” Barbara Kumbatovich, Lynda’s sister-in-law, told the newspaper. “[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.”
Another family member, who was not identified, told the newspaper that Nikolas’ adoptive father died of a heart attack when Nikolas was young. The family member said Nikolas Cruz had been diagnosed with autism and Lynda had sought counseling for him from a young age.
“She did her best getting him any help he needed,” the family member told the newspaper.
Cruz eventually moved in with a classmate’s family after he was unhappy with where he was living after his mother’s death.
“The family is devastated, they didn’t see this coming. They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished,” Jim Lewis, an attorney representing the family who took Cruz in told the newspaper. “He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”
Neighbors told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz would harass neighbors and get into trouble while he was growing up and that police came to his home multiple times.
A person who knew Cruz, Nicholas Coke, told the Miami Herald that Cruz was a loner who left school and moved to North Florida after his mother died. “He had a lot of problems in middle school. You never think anyone you know is going to do something like this,” Coke told the newspaper.
“He was psycho, for sure,” a student who knew Cruz told WPLG-TV. “He was crazy because he liked to kill small things, like little animals — frogs and other animals like that and he just had a crazy mind. He was racist and he was just crazy.”
Police received a tip that the suspect was possibly watching videos on Youtube about how to make bombs, according to police scanner transmissions. Police were searching the building as a precaution after learning about that information, but it is not known if there were any bombs left in the school.
The person who gave police the tip also had messages exchanged with the suspect.
Police were at the suspect’s home searching for more information about him. He lives in the 11000 block of NW 47th Drive in Parkland. They were also at another location where he previously lived.
Cruz had been working as a cashier at a Dollar Tree store after leaving high school, according to the New York Times.
5. Horrific Videos Captured the Moment Panicked Students Hid in Classrooms as Gunshots Rang Out During the 18th Shooting at a School in 2018
A student who is inside the school told CBS Miami through text message, “All of a sudden there was a really loud noise…..people are crying” and hiding in “the closet.”
A video recorded by a student captured the gunshots:
Michael Katz told ABC News, “It was really loud. Then I heard it again. Then I heard frantic screaming. I’ve never heard such loud screams in my life. Then we realized there was a shooting at my school.”
Students took to Twitter to provide updates about the situation, saying they’ve heard several shots and are hiding in the school.
Jay Golden, of Parkland, whose daughter, Rachel is a senior at the high school. She is still inside the school, Golden told the Sun-Sentinel.
“She was crying, she’s scared. She’s been texting back and forth. She’s OK at the moment,” he told the newspaper. “I’m freaking out. This is crazy, this stuff shouldn’t be going on in these schools. People are crazy. I don’t know what goes on through these people’s minds these days, it’s a scary thing. It’s one of those things – you don’t want to put a metal protector and treat them like prisoners but they have to figure something out. You put your kids in school and it’s supposed to be a safe place and this stuff happens all the time.”
Federal authorities responded to the scene, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is typical in active shooter incidents.
“ATF agents from the Miami Field Division are responding to reports of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The investigation is ongoing and active,” the ATF tweeted.
About 2,900 students are enrolled at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, according to its website. Police were still searching the building Wednesday night.
The school is part of the Broward County Public Schools system.
President Donald Trump was made aware of the situation, the White House says.
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” Trump tweeted. “Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott. We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting.”
There have been 17 other shootings on school campuses around the country already this year. Everytown for Gun Safety defines those shootings as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials.”
Included in that total is a shooting that occurred in Benton, Kentucky, on January 23. A 15-year-old student opened fire on classmates, killing two other 15-year-olds and injuring 18 other people. Just a day earlier, on January 22, a 15-year-old girl was shot by another student at a high school in Italy, Texas. She survived the shooting and the gunman was arrested.
The other shootings have not been as high-profile, according to NPR, which compiled a list of the incidents.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there were multiple shootings in February. On February 8, a gun was fired at The Metropolitan High School in New York City.
“A 17 year-old male student fired a gun, hitting the floor of a classrom. No injuries were reported, and police took the student in custody for questioning,” according to Everytown.
On February 5, a gun was fired but no one was injured at Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, Wisconsin.
“A school liaison officer was sitting on a bench talking with some students when a third-grader pressed the trigger on the officer’s holstered weapon, causing it to fire and strike the floor. The holster was equipped with a trigger guard designed to prevent such accidental discharges, so the department is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the event,” Everytown writes.
Also on February 5, a 17-year-old student was shot in the chest at Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, NBC Washington reports.
On January 31, a shot was fired during a basketball game at Lincoln High School in Philadelphia. A man was shot twice in the leg, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On the same day as the Texas shooting, a student was wounded in the parking lot of a New Orleans charter school. On January 26, a gun was fired during an altercation at Dearborn High School in Michigan, but no one was injured. A day earlier, on January 25, a gun was fired at Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama, during a disagreement between two students.
“A disagreement between two 16-year-old students escalated when Jonah Neal pulled out a handgun. School administrators noticed the weapon and tried to calm him; Neal then fled across campus. He was pursued by staff until he fired the gun four or five times into the air. Nobody was injured. Neal was taken into custody and charged for multiple offenses, including possession of a weapon on school property,” according to Everytown.
On January 20, a man was shot and killed on the campus of Wake Forest University. The victim was a student at Winston-Salem State University and was attending a sorority party.
On January 15, a bullet was fired into a dorm room in Marshall, Texas, on the campus of Wiley College.
On January 10, there were three shootings on the same day. The first was a suicide at Coronado Elementary School in Arizona. Then a student fired a shot in a classroom at Grayson College in Texas, but nobody was hit. Police say it was an accidental discharge during a criminal justice class. And a shot was fired at a building on the campus of Cal State San Bernardino. No one was injured there.
On January 6, a shot was fired at a school bus carrying students in Iowa, shattering a window, but not causing injuries. On January 4, two shots were fired into a Seattle high school classroom. And on that same day a man shot himself in the parking lot of an empty elementary school in Michigan.
“We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue,” said Katherine W. Schweit, a former FBI official who co-authore a study on active shooting incidents, told the Times.
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