Nikolas Cruz, now described as a broken teen, calmly walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, and after he perpetrated a mass shooting that left 17 teachers, coaches and students dead.
Cruz, 19, has confessed to the crime. The confession was broadcast via the courtroom’s live video feed.
In an interrogation session with officers from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Cruz confessed to being the shooter and told interrogators that he began shooting students he saw on the school grounds, then proceeded to go into the hallways, continuing to shoot students.
Cruz had pre-packed for the shooting spree. He hid a backpack containing extra loaded magazines on the school campus in easy reach for him to begin his assault.
Cruz’s weapon of choice was an AR-15 rifle; he is facing 17 felony counts of pre-meditated murder.
Cruz is being held without bond. His public defender lawyer says that Cruz is fully aware of what is going on and the bloodshed he inflicted.
The judge ordered Cruz to be held without bond, and following the hearing, his public defender, Melisa McNeill, said he feels remorse for his alleged actions.
McNeill also referred to Cruz as a “broken human being”, explaining that as a teen, his brain wasn’t fully developed, and he hadn’t known how to deal with the tragedies in his life.
Cruz had been expelled from school. He attended morning adult education classes but refused to go to class on Wednesday because it was Valentine’s Day. Instead, he took an Uber to the high school. Police say that after the shooting, he stopped at Subway for a drink and then went to McDonald’s for a meal.
Authorities are still unclear about exactly what led Cruz on his bloody rampage. He was a member of a white supremacist group called the Republic of Florida; their mission was for Florida to become “its own white ethno-state.”
Group spokesperson Jordan Jereb said Cruz participated in their paramilitary drills near Tallahassee.
Jereb also said that he heard Cruz was having girlfriend problems, which may explain why Cruz chose Valentine’s Day to carry out the attack.
Jereb was quick to say that in no way did their white supremacist group have anything to do with the attack and that Cruz had acted solely on his own behalf.
Cruz had a very troubled past. Students and townspeople say he’s been causing trouble in Parkland for as long as they could remember.
Unlike other mass shooters, who are sometimes described as “the last person I would have ever thought could have done this”, Cruz is quite the opposite. Many students say that if anyone was going to shoot up their school, Cruz was the most likely candidate. One classmate said that Cruz “seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”
Classmates describe Cruz as someone they steered clear of because he was a troubled kid with multiple issues. Students say Cruz told them that shooting guns gave him an exhilarating feeling and that he was known for threatening students.
Cruz’s mother recently died, but before that, the police were regularly at Cruz’s house. He killed animals and posted pictures on social media.
School administrators expelled him, then sent a memo to teachers saying that by no means was Cruz ever allowed on campus, particularly with a backpack.
The most chilling revelation was Cruz’s YouTube comments that he was going to be a professional school shooter, a comment he posted on Ben Bennight’s YouTube video platform last September. Bennight had posted a video about the University of Texas clock tower sniper which happened 20 years ago, and a user named nikolas cruz commented on it. Bennight promptly alerted the FBI, but the agency said they could not determine who had posted the comment.
FBI agents did visit Bennight at his office for a brief interview. The FBI also called Bennight after the Cruz shooting, leaving a voicemail message saying, “I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel. I just wanted to follow up with you on that and ask you a question with something that’s come up, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a ring.”
FBI agents from Mississippi then showed up for an in-person visit with Bennight, who told them he didn’t know anything about Cruz other than the comment he had posted.