On Valentine’s Day 2018, a teenager climbed out of an Uber outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parker, Florida.
Armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle and a backpack containing extra ammunition, he entered the building and began to set off the fire alarms with the intention of mowing down the students as they inevitably began to exit the building.
He set off smoke grenades and shot at students who were fleeing through the corridors, before climbing to the next floor and spraying bullets into classrooms of cowering kids.
The assailant then made his way up to the third floor where his initial plan was to shoot panicked students from the 3rd floor window. When his bullets failed to penetrate the glass he dropped his weapon and attempted to escape, merging with the sea of students who were pouring out the school doors.
Although the attack only lasted a matter of minutes, the teen killed 17 and wounded 14.
Students Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alexander Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang and Coaches Christopher Hixon, Aaron Feis and Scott Beigel were all killed the attack. (Read more about the victims here<<)
After evading police for over an hour he was eventually detained a few miles away in the Coral springs neighborhood.
The shooter was later identified as Nikolas Cruz.
Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and held without bond.
Interviews with students who attended the South Florida School revealed that Cruz was considered a misfit; the “weird kid” who classmates joked would shoot up the school one day- sadly a premonition that would come to pass.
A classmate said that Cruz was usually stressed out, mostly talked about weapons and would show anyone sitting next to him in class images of animals that he’d killed. It’s not surprising that the kids at school felt uncomfortable in his presence.
This article has interviews with the gunman’s neighbors, who said they were well aware of his strange and disturbing behavior- specifically his abuse of animals such as wild birds and rodents. Allegedly neighborhood pets would vanish on occasion and those who lived nearby often had an unsettling feeling that they knew who was responsible.
His social media accounts consisted of pictures of him posing with guns, dressed in dark clothes, sometimes with his face concealed. His online life depicted a troubled individual who claimed that he was “going to be a professional school shooter” in a YouTube comment- the type of edgy comment that the internet is used to seeing under a video online, but much more unnerving to those who knew him personally.
The user who received the comment on one of his videos did report it to YouTube and even called the FBI to alert them. They paid him a visit the following day; however he understandably couldn’t provide them with any more information. After the shooting they visited him at his home, after which he made this video.
The screen name of the user who posted the comment before the shooting was “Nikolas Cruz”. The FBI never officially confirmed that the comment was posted by the shooter; however it seems extremely likely that it was.
What is believed to be Cruz’s instagram account shows ammo and dead animals such as frogs that he supposedly killed.
More recently, the FBI was alerted a second time about Nikolas, when (according to this article) someone close to him contacted the bureau informing them of his violent posts online, disturbing practices and talk of wanting to kill people. Shockingly the FBI claimed that this very serious report was never sent over to their offices in Miami and had never been investigated.
The gunman’s adoptive parents have both passed away. His foster mother died as recently as November 2017 and his father, a decade earlier. He convinced a high school buddy to let him move into his family’s trailer. According to this article he took the same semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle that he used in the attack along with him. The family allowed him to keep it on their property as long as it remained locked up.
He had apparently purchased the rifle around February of last year, days after he was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for what most reports refer to as “disciplinary reasons”. Some accounts state that he had been expelled for fighting with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. On the day of the shooting, security had apparently even radioed in a warning about his presence on school grounds.
Although the media has reported that Cruz was allegedly linked to a white nationalist group, this claim has not officially been confirmed and is thought to have been circulated misinformation as a result of trolling on forums. A recent report from CNN, however, claims that Cruz was a member of a racist group chat on Instagram where he vocalized his hate for those of different races and sexual orientations and even claimed that he wanted to kill them.
Nikolas Cruz was hit with a crippling depression following the death of his mother 4 months ago and according to this article in the Sun Sentinel he had been treated for mental health issues at Henderson Mental Health center after he broadcasted himself self harming on Snapchat. So how did a teenager known for his violent speech and actions with mental health issues so severe that he was at one point almost committed for psychiatric treatment, legally obtain a semi-automatic rifle in the state of Florida? This is the question on the lips and in the minds of many following the story. The conversation about gun control in the US has turned into a heated one following what is now known as one of the deadliest high school shootings in America.
A fox news report states that the teenager told police “the demons in my head made me do it”.
His public defender has described him as a “very broken child” who “has been through a lot of trauma” and informed the media that he is remorseful for his actions.
Surviving students have organized a march in Washington to appeal for stricter gun laws in the hope of preventing further shootings in schools and elsewhere.