Before he had murdered 17 innocent students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Nicholas Cruz exhibited all of the telltale warning signs of a potential threat to others.
Cruz was a violent kid who had always had a fascination with weapons. Once, on a camping trip with other students interested in firearms, Cruz was said to have been bragging about his AR-15, which he had legally purchased from a pawn shop. His interest eventually led to his expulsion from Stoneman Douglas after he had been found carrying a knife on the school campus. He was flagged as a potential threat, and staff members were told to alert administrators if Cruz had been seen on campus with a backpack, following a series of incidents in which Cruz had threatened to harm other students.
Cruz had been causing problems long before high school, however. He and his brother, Zachary, had been adopted and largely raised by Lynda Cruz, especially after their adopted father, Roger P. Cruz, had died in 2004. Neighbors reported to the New York Times that Cruz’s mother had frequently called sheriff deputies to the house to help control her son. One neighbor, Craig Koblitz, had caught Cruz stealing fish out of the pond in his front yard, and found it odd that he had not shown much surprise or guilt over being caught. Another neighbor, Paul Gold,, told the Times that after he had once sent Cruz home for misbehaving, Cruz smashed one of Mr. Gold’s trailers with a golf club.
After the death of his father, Cruz had developed a very close relationship with his mother, and when she died last November, people who knew Cruz said he had taken the loss especially hard. Mr. Gold told the Times, “His mother was his entire life and when he lost her, I believe that was it for the boy’s peace of mind.” Following his mother’s death, Cruz moved in with the family of a schoolmate, the Snead family. They had allowed him to bring his AR-15 into the house but insisted that he keep it in a lockbox.
Last Wednesday, Cruz had refused to get out of bed to attend the adult education courses he normally went to on weekdays. According to the family lawyer, Jim Lewis, Cruz had told the Sneads, “I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day.” Cruz had reportedly sent messages to the Snead’s son just minutes before the first 911 calls about the shooting. He had arrived at the campus in an Uber, carrying a black duffel bag and backpack, and shots rang out shortly after.