A day after a teenage gunman killed at least 17 people and injured dozens more in an attack on a Florida high school, President Trump broke his silence to castigate people for not reporting him to authorities sooner. Except he had been reported, many many times.
"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” the president tweeted. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"
But as it turned out, the gunman — 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who has since confessed to the shooting — had been reported, dozens of times, to school authorities, the police, and even the FBI.
2010 – 2017
According to CNN, which obtained documentation, police responded 39 times to emergency calls at Cruz’s home over a seven-year period. The codes included “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance,” “missing person,” among others, CNN reports.
According to the New York Times, Cruz’s adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, had a hard time dealing with his behavior and would sometimes call police to her home in an effort to get him under control before her death last year. But not all of the calls were placed by Cruz’s mother.
One neighbor, Rhonda Roxburgh, told the Washington Post she called the cops on Cruz after he attacked her car about four years ago, slamming his backpack into it for no apparent reason. In response, the cops stationed an officer at the intersection for “several days” to ensure he didn’t “attack or throw rocks at cars,” the paper reports.
Neighbors interviewed by multiple outlets remember him as a menace to the neighborhood, telling reporters that Cruz had been caught shooting at a neighbor’s chickens, siccing his dogs on a neighbor’s pigs, stealing mail, vandalizing property, peeking in a neighbor’s windows, and trying to steal a neighbor’s bike.
CBS reported, citing an anonymous law enforcement source, that in February 2016 the Broward County Sheriff's Office was notified that Cruz had posted a picture of himself holding guns on Instagram with a caption indicating that he was going to shoot his school.
During the fall semester, the school found bullets in Cruz’s backpack after a fight and alerted teachers that Cruz was no longer allowed to carry a backpack to school as a safety precaution, Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school who has Cruz in his class, told reporters.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard said. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Cruz was also suspended for the infraction, a 16-year-old student who knew Cruz told the Miami Herald. One student told the AP the fight was with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and that he had been abusive to her in their relationship.
January 19, 2017
Cruz was involved in an assault at school and was suspended for one day, according to ABC, which obtained documentation. The incident also reportedly prompted the school to order a threat assessment for him. It's not clear if such an assessment was conducted.
February 8, 2017
The school finally expelled Cruz for “disciplinary reasons.” His last day was Feb. 8, 2017, according to documents obtained by ABC. He bought the AR-15 used in the attack three days later.
The school has not commented further on what prompted his expulsion. One student told the New York Times it was for bringing knives to school. “Her friends have said he was known to always be mentally ill and would kill animals,” the student’s mother, Amanda Samaroo, told the Times.
Others said the final straw was fighting and emotional outbursts in class.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said Wednesday afternoon that the school did not have any explicit advance notice Cruz was a threat.
“We received no warnings,” Runcie said. “Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
Sept. 24, 2017
A YouTube user named Ben Bennight sent a tip to the FBI reporting that another user named “Nikolas Cruz” had commented on one of his posts, saying, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." He told BuzzFeed News the FBI came to his office to interview him the next day but that he did not hear from them again until a few hours after the shooting, when they called back asking for more information. Both times agents wanted to know if he knew anything about Cruz, which he says he did not.
The FBI has confirmed it received the tip but says it was unable to follow up at the time, because "no other information was included in the comment that would indicate a time, location, or true identity of the person who made the comment," special agent Robert Lasky said, despite the fact that the username contained Cruz’s real first and last name. Lasky added, "The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who made the comment."
January 5, 2018
The FBI receives a tip providing "information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting," but does not investigate it.
“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” the FBI admitted in a statement. “We have determined that these protocols were not followed. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
February 14, 2018
A school staffer saw Cruz “walking purposefully on campus,” and, knowing him to be a threat, radioed the threat, the Washington Post reports. Despite having two on-campus safety officers assigned to the school, no one was able to respond in time.
Cover image: Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, is seen on a closed circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)