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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

More Red Flags Emerge on Teenager Accused in Parkland Shooting

A local sheriff's office was warned twice in the past two years that Nikolas Cruz, the teenager charged with murdering 17 last week at a South Florida high school, had been amassing an arsenal and was planning to shoot up a school, newly released police records show.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) - A local sheriff's office was warned twice in the past two years that Nikolas Cruz, the teenager charged with murdering 17 last week at a South Florida high school, had been amassing an arsenal and was planning to shoot up a school, newly released police records show.

On Nov. 30, 2017, two-and-a-half months before expelled student Nikolas Cruz allegedly rampaged through Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Broward County Sheriff's Office received a call advising that he was "collecting guns and knives" and "believes he could be a school shooter in the making," the sheriff's office records state.

The sheriff's office says that "no report was initiated."

During a post-shooting inquiry, a deputy  purportedly said that he had referred the caller to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, as Cruz had moved from his previous family residence to a city in the Palm Beach jurisdiction after the death of his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, last fall.

In addition to that call, the records state that in Feb. 2016, the sheriff's office received "third-hand information" from a neighbor's son that Cruz "planned to shoot up" a school and had posted pictures of himself with guns on his Instagram social media account.

A deputy responded, and information about Cruz was forwarded to the Stoneman Douglas High School resource officer, though no arrest or punitive action was initiated. Cruz was consequently left with a clean background check record. A year later, in Feb. 2017, he was able to purchase the AR-15 rifle he allegedly used to gun down 17 people last week, according to police.

The Broward Sheriff's Office says it has initiated an internal investigation into both warning calls and is reviewing why further law enforcement action was not taken against Cruz.

The revelations come after the FBI admitted it failed to pursue a Jan. 2018 tip to its hotline, which warned of Cruz's "gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts," as the FBI described it.

Former students, including a Parkland teenager interviewed last week by Courthouse News, have claimed that Cruz was preoccupied with firearms and committed acts of animal abuse in his youth.

The newly released BSO records also recount an alleged history of animal cruelty. They show that in 2014, a deputy responded to reports that Cruz had shot a chicken in his neighborhood, possibly with an air rifle or BB gun.  The animal owner declined to press charges, the records state.

Domestic disputes between Lynda, Cruz and his younger brother were frequent. Lynda called for help from the Broward Sheriff's Office with at least 8 domestic disturbances involving Cruz and his brother stretching back to 2011.

In one incident, the records state, she told police a then-14-year-old Cruz hit her with a vacuum cleaner hose; a month  later, the mother summoned deputies again, saying that she had been thrown against a wall because she took away Cruz's Xbox gaming system, the records state. In the latter incident, Cruz's counselor from Henderson Behavioral Health "responded and advised a Baker Act [involuntarily commitment proceeding] was not warranted," the sheriff's office claims.

Welfare agency records obtained by the Miami Herald last week show that the Department of Children and Families sent out a welfare investigator in Sept. 2016 to look into reports that Cruz was cutting himself.

When the welfare investigator arrived, Cruz's mother said he was depressed over a breakup with his girlfriend.

The DCF wrote that Cruz was known to have put a hate symbol and a racist message on his book bag in the past. Despite reports that Cruz had ingested gasoline and was inflicting self-harm, he was not subjected to involuntarily commitment procedures under Florida's Baker Act, which could have prevented him from acquiring the AR-15 a few months later.

Yesterday, 911 call tapes were released, involving domestic disturbances that occurred shortly after Cruz moved into a Lantana, Florida, trailer following the death of his mother, according WPTV. Allegedly, Cruz called police himself, recounted being assaulted, and told the dispatcher that he "lost [his] mother a couple days ago" and was "dealing with a bunch of things right now."

WPTV reported that Roxanne Deschamps, who allowed Cruz to stay in the trailer after his mom’s death, said in a coinciding 911 call that she was concerned about Cruz's access to firearms following an altercation with her son, as Cruz once put a gun to his brother’s head, and had done so in the past to his mother.

Cruz later moved in with another couple back in Broward, James and Kimberly Snead. The Sneads in multiple interviews have said they had no idea Cruz was planning a massacre.

They said they knew Cruz had a gun but made him keep in a lock box.

Categories / Government, Regional

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