Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Warning signs may have been missed in school shooting case

Published:Friday | February 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Students Nicole Baltzer(right) and Alex Debs, embrace yesterday in Parkland, Florida, during a community vigil for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder yesterday.

PARKLAND, Florida (AP):

Months before authorities say Nikolas Cruz walked into his former high school and slaughtered 17 people, the troubled teen began showing what may have been warning signs he was bent on violence.

"I'm going to be a professional school shooter," a YouTube user with the screen name "Nikolas Cruz" posted in September.

The 19-year-old had got expelled last year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. A former Junior ROTC cadet, he bought a military-style AR-15 rifle. And he began to participate in paramilitary drills with a white nationalist organisation, according to its leader, Jordan Jereb.

Jereb, head of the Republic of Florida, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group seeks to create a white state. He said he didn't know Cruz personally but was told the young man had "trouble with a girl," and he suggested the timing of the Valentine's Day attack wasn't a coincidence.

However, the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, where the Republic of Florida is based, said it monitors the group's membership and has seen no ties between the organisation and Cruz. Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Grady Jordan said the Republic of Florida has never had more than 10 members.

 

HISTORY OF THREATS

 

Students and neighbours, meanwhile, reported that Cruz threatened and harassed others, talked about killing animals, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media, and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

In fact, schoolmates weren't surprised when Cruz was identified as the gunman in Wednesday's rampage, said 17-year-old Dakota Mutchler.

"I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him," Mutchler said.

Benjamin Bennight, a Mississippi bail bondsman, was concerned enough after seeing the "professional school shooter" comment on his Youtube channel that he took a screenshot of it on his phone and called the FBI. Two FBI agents visited Bennight the next day.

The FBI said it never spoke to the Florida teen.