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Details of numerous warnings that law enforcement officials received about the Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz have many wondering why nothing was done to stop him before he carried out his deadly attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities have acknowledged mishandling numerous warning signs that Mr. Cruz was deeply troubled. There were tips to the F.B.I., an investigation by social services, 39 visits to his home by the local sheriff’s office and dozens of calls to 911 and the local authorities, some mentioning fears that he was capable of violence.
Mr. Cruz had no criminal history before the shootings but his childhood was certainly troubled. Nikolas and his brother Zachary, had been adopted by Lynda and Roger Cruz. They were raised largely by their mother, Lynda after Roger P. Cruz, died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 67. Lynda Cruz died in November 2017 and people who knew Nikolas said he had taken the loss hard.
Social services had opened an investigation in 2015 after Cruz posted videos showing him cutting his arms and saying he wanted to buy a gun. They closed the investigation after 2 months determining he was low risk- identifying him as a “vulnerable adult due to mental illness” including depression, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which he was medicated for. Records show the Broward County Sheriff’s department visited Cruz’s home 39 times since 2010. The calls were for mentally ill-person, domestic disturbance, child-elderly abuse, missing persons and numerous 911 hang ups.
Two years before the shooting, the FBI reported receiving “thirdhand information” from the son of one of Mr. Cruz’s neighbors that he “planned to shoot up the school on Instagram.” The FBI also received a tip in September 2017 from video blogger Ben Bennight. Someone on YouTube with the name “Nicholas Cruz” had replied to a video he posted “I’m going to become a professional school shooter.” Bennight immediately reported it to YouTube and the FBI’s Mississippi field office. After interviewing Bennight and searching public records databases under what’s called a “simple assessment,” the agents concluded that they didn’t have probable cause to open up a preliminary investigation into the tip.
Cruz himself called 911 just after Thanksgiving to report that he was attacked at a friends’ home where he was staying. He explained that he got angry and started punching walls and the friend had attacked him. “The thing is I lost my mother a couple of weeks ago, so like I am dealing with a bunch of things right now,” he said. In a 911 call on Nov. 29, Rocxanne Deschamps, the family friend who took in Nicholas and his brother after their mother died, called to report the same fight and expressed fear that he was going to return with a gun after fighting with her son. She stated that Cruz already owned 8 guns that were kept at another friends’ house. He stated he was buying another gun and she told him he could not have it in her house so he began punching and throwing things. Her son tried to stop him and they briefly fought. Deschamps said she kicked him out but was afraid he would return with a weapon. Deschamps made it clear that he was obsessed with firearms and had threatened both his mother and his brother, holding a gun to their heads on separate occasions.
Of the more shocking revelations, on Nov. 30, just two and a half months before the Parkland massacre, an unidentified caller from Massachusetts told the Broward County Sheriff’s Office that Mr. Cruz was collecting guns and knives and that “he could be a school shooter in the making.” On January 5, just 40 days before the massacre, a woman who knew Mr. Cruz said on the F.B.I.’s tip line “I know he’s going to explode,” Her big worry was that he might resort to slipping “into a school and just shooting the place up.” The bureau failed to investigate, even though the tipster said Mr. Cruz had a “desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts.”