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S1 / EP12: Parkland School Shooting: Nikolas Cruz

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

I can remember when this school shooting happened...I recall seeing the massive news coverage and the immediate deep dive into trying to uncover the shooters past history, his family life, his motives for destroying so many lives.


The fact that the youngest of our society can be harmed in a place meant for educating, for bringing wisdom and knowledge to our children, is unfathomable.

 
Nikolas Cruz

Check out our INSTAGRAM for additional photos related to case!

 

Transcribed Episode / EP12: The Parkland School Shooting: Nikolas Cruz


[Host]

This podcast includes content that may not be suitable for some listeners - listener discretion is advised.


[911 Call: February 14, 2018]


[911 Dispatcher]

911 What is your emergency?


[Unknown Female]

Hi my daughter just uh, texted me from school. She's at Stoneman Douglas, Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, and she said there's an active shooter, and she said she's behind the desk right now, but the shots were close.


[911 Dispatcher]

The shots were close to her?


[Unknown Female]

Yes


[911 Dispatcher]

...did she...


[Unknown Female]

...close to her.


[911 Dispatcher]

Okay...just, ah...


[Unknown Female]

She, she's behind the desk...


[Intro Music Begins / Fades]


[Host]

Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Santa Fe High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School. These names now sadly have a place in history as schools where mass shootings have occurred. These tragedies seem to have all too similar characteristics. They usually involve a lone gunman, in Columbine’s case there were two, who is either a current student or a former student of the school, and they’re usually either a teenager or a young adult.


These incidents have been analyzed by psychologists as they try to narrow down the causes and who is at risk at becoming violent in schools and how we can intervene before thoughts turn into physical actions. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist notes that most of the shooters have led difficult lives and struggle with psychological problems - that there have been multiple failures in their lives.


Many are depressed, paranoid or become desperate. And most never get treatment for their illnesses. Feelings of social rejection also play a role - many of the perpetrators have been bullied or rejected by their peers. When they feel that there is no where to turn, or no ONE to turn to - not even their own families - their feelings of desperation can often turn to anger and feelings of revenge. This is when they begin to fantasize about other similar crimes and look to violence as a way to solve their problem.


Sue Klebold (Dylan Klebold - one of the Columbine shooters’ - mother) spoke to NPR in regards to the signs she missed as a parent: "The piece that I think I failed [in] is, we tend to underestimate the level of pain that someone may be in. We all have a responsibility to stop and think — someone we love may be suffering...may be in a crisis."


Although some may have missed the warning signs and red flags of these dangerous individuals, in this episode we’ll be discussing a case where the signs were noticed...where the potential for violence was brought to the attention of authorities...and yet tragically no one was able to prevent what was to become the deadliest high school shooting in United States history.


On September 24, 1998 Nikolas Cruz was born in Margate Florida. He was adopted when he was just 3 days old by Roger and Lynda Cruz. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom and Roger was in marketing. The couple was not young, Roger was 61 and had four children from a previous relationship and Lynda was nearly 50, but the couple always wanted children. The family lived in a large home in Parkland Florida - Parkland is an affluent city of about 25,000 people that lies in the Miami metroplex and is approximately 50 miles north of the city of Miami. The city itself is described as being “park-like” due to it’s zoning laws limiting the amount of stores and traffic lights.


Just two years later, Nikolas’ brother Zachary was born, and the Cruz’ adopted him as well as they wanted a biological sibling for Nikolas. The boys have different biological fathers but the same mother. Both boys were a result of a one-night-stand and their biological mother had a criminal and drug abuse history.


When Nikolas was 4 years old he was tested and was diagnosed to be developmentally delayed, resulting in placement in special education for most of his life.


On August 11, 2004, when Nikolas was just 6 years old, his adopted father Roger Cruz, passed away at the age of 67, leaving Lynda to raise the two boys as a single mother.

It appeared that from the moment he started school, Nikolas had disciplinary issues. When he reached middle school, his troubles continued, and in August 2012 he was suspended for getting into a fight at Westglades Middle School. During the 2013 school year he received 26 disciplinary incidents, averaging about three per month.


Therapists thought Nikolas could have had autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and he was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. He never learned to drive, but he did ride a bike. His mother believed he would never be able to live on his own because of the mental difficulties that he had.


In January of 2013, Lynda Cruz got into an altercation with Nikolas where he threw her against a wall because she took away his xbox. Lynda called 911 and when a Broward County sheriff responded to the call at their home, she told the deputy that her son had anger issues and ADHD, but she said that he didn’t threaten to harm her or himself.

Nikolas changed schools six times over a three year period as he dealt with disciplinary issues. In the 8th grade, he left Westglades Middle School and enrolled in a school that offered psychiatric and other clinical services on campus. In 2014 he was transferred to Cross Creek School, a school for students with emotional, learning disabilities, or behavioral problems.


Two years later, in his sophomore year, Nikolas left Cross Creek School and enrolled in Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. During his high school years, he had intentions of joining the military so he became a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and received multiple awards - he was also a member of the school’s air rifle team.


During that same year, Florida Dept of Children and Families investigated him for posts that he made on Snapchat in which he cut both of his arms and said he planned to buy a gun. A school resource officer made the suggestion that he undergo an involuntary psychiatric examination, and two guidance counselors agreed to the exam, but a mental institution did not.


Social media was a large part of Nikolas’ life, and he was active on YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. He’d often post photos of himself with various weapons...shotguns, knives, pistols or photos of himself wearing bulletproof vests. He would also post extremist and racist slurs, threats that he would kill people, threats against police officers and even referenced an intent to copy the University of Texas tower shooting.


One of Nikolas’ neighbors whose son said that Cruz posted a picture of himself on Instagram with guns stating that planned to shoot up the school, anonymously reported the post to Broward County Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office forwarded the information to Stoneman Douglas School’s resource officer.


The sheriff’s office received two reports in September 2016 that Nikolas was trying to hurt himself. Apparently he’d ingested gasoline and was cutting himself, in an attempt to commit suicide. After consulting with a mental health clinician, they confirmed that he did not need to be held under the Baker Act - the Baker Act is a Florida law that enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment. Just eight hours later, the sheriff’s office received yet another call to Nikolas’ home that he was hurting himself again and mentioned buying a gun.


During that same month, the Florida Dept of Children and Families opened a case on Nikolas and cited “medical neglect,” describing him as a “vulnerable adult due to mental illness.” The case noted that Nikolas planned to purchase a gun, but it wasn’t known what the gun was going to be used for. Just two months later, the Dept of Children and Families closed their case on Cruz and stated that he suffered from depression, ADHD and autism, and that the “final level of risk is low” and noted that he took medication regularly and kept his appointments.


When he turned 18 and was a junior at Stoneman, Cruz was involved in an assault at Stoneman Douglas and met with school specialists, along with his mother, as his grades and disciplinary problems were continuing to be an issue.


The specialists recommended that Cruz transfer to a different school - Cross Creek in Pompano Beach - which he had attended previously and done very well. Since he was close to graduating at Stoneman, he decided to stay so he could graduate with his class. The specialist told him that if he stayed on, they could no longer give him access to special education services - which apparently was inaccurate, he still COULD have continued to have those services. But it was only a few months after this meeting that he left Stoneman as his grades were continuing to fail. He asked to be admitted to Cross Creek, but they advised him that a new assessment was needed which delayed the process. So Nikolas ultimately enrolled in a General Education Development program where he could finish up his high school education and receive his high school diploma. To make extra money he also obtained a part time job at a local dollar store.


Being 18 years old, he now had the ability to legally purchase weapons. On February 11, 2017, Nikolas walked into the Coral Springs gun store: Sunrise Tactical Supply, and after passing their background check, he purchased an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle. This wasn’t the first weapon Nikolas was able to obtain - prior to this purchase, he had obtained at least 10 other weapons, including an AK-47 which he bought with his mother, one shotgun and several other rifles. Lynda knew her son had a liking for guns, and was “okay” with him purchasing them and practicing with them, because even with as many issues she was having with Nikolas, she knew it would make him happy.


Many students at the schools he attended would later say that Nikolas had anger management issues and would often joke about guns or gun violence and talk about threats of shooting up establishments. One student described him as being “super stressed out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face.”


In September of 2017, Nikolas turned 19 years old. YouTuber Ben Bennight (a Mississippi bail bondsman) noticed a comment made on one of his videos under the name “Nikolas Cruz”, which stated: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Ben quickly reported this comment to the FBI, but the FBI could not track down the person who made the comment on his YouTube page.


According to public records of the Broward County Sheriff’s log, at least 45 calls were made in reference to Nikolas Cruz, Zachary Cruz or their family home, from 2008-2017.


In late 2017, Lynda Cruz got sick with the flu and ultimately contracted pneumonia. She died at the age of 68, in November, leaving Nikolas and Zachary as orphans. Nikolas took her death especially hard and with nowhere to live, the boys would end up staying with friends, with Nikolas and Zachary initially staying with a family friend Roxanne Deschamps in Lake Worth Florida - a city about 30 miles north of Parkland.


During that same time, one of Lynda Cruz’ cousins notified the Broward County Sheriff’s office that Nikolas had several rifles and that in light of Lynda’s death, they should be taken away, but no action was taken following the report.


While Nikolas and Zachary were staying with Roxanne Deschamps, her son, Rock Deschamps, made a phone call to police telling them that Nikolas had been digging in the backyard for 15 minutes and Rock was positive he was hiding a weapon or that he buried a 9mm handgun. Later that month, Roxanne called 911 after Cruz and her son had gotten into a fight. She told them that Nikolas became violent, had punched walls and had left to go get a gun.


An unknown caller from Massachusetts also apparently called the Broward County Sheriff’s office to tell them that Nikolas Cruz was collecting guns and knives and was either going to harm himself or become a school shooter. The deputy who took the call, referred it to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office as it’s out of their jurisdiction since Nikolas lives in Lake Worth Florida. According to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office, they never received that call.


After about a month of living with the Deschamps, Nikolas left and moved in with another friend’s family, James and Kimberly Snead.


In January of 2018 the FBI received a tip from someone close to Nikolas Cruz saying that they were worried about his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting”. They told the FBI that they were worried that Nikolas was going to be “getting into a school and just shooting the place up.” The FBI did not act on this warning as they said the tip line where the call was received did not follow protocol and report the information to the Miami Field Office, so again - NO action was taken.

It was a typical Wednesday morning on February 14, 2018 in the Snead household. James Snead was preparing to head to work, and Kimberly Snead was sleeping as she didn’t start her nursing shift until the evening. Nikolas told James that he didn’t need a ride to school that morning as he never went to school on Valentine’s Day. He let him know he would be going fishing instead.


Nikolas had no plans of actually going fishing, but instead contacted an Uber driver and had the driver take him to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Wearing a burgundy polo shirt with the school’s logo on its sleeve, black jeans and a black ball cap, he was dropped off at the school at 2:19pm, shortly before school was to end for the day.

Nikolas was carrying a rifle case and a black backpack that contained an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines with swastikas carved into them.

As he entered the school grounds he was immediately spotted by a staff member who recognized him and radioed a colleague to let them know that Nicolas was walking purposefully towards Building number 12, a three story building that contained 30 classrooms usually occupied by approximately 900 students and 30 teachers. The staff member who spotted Cruz later claimed that their training only required them to report threats.


Nikolas Cruz then pulled the fire alarm, which confused the students and staff as they had conducted a fire drill earlier that day. As people began to pour out of the classrooms, Nikolas Cruz started firing randomly at the students and teachers.


At around 2:21pm, the staff member who had seen Cruz heard gunshots and activated a “code red” lockdown. There was an armed school resource officer who was a member of the Broward County Sheriff’s office that was on campus that day. He heard the shots, but remained outside of Building 12, next to building 7.

[Radio Call from School Resource Office, February 14, 2018]


[Resource Officer]

I think we got shots fired, possible shots fired, 1200 building. I hear shots fired by the football field, shots fired by the football field.


[Unknown Female]

Shots fired by the football field heard.


[Resource Officer]

We're looking at the 1200 building, it's going to be the 300 building, it's gonna be, uh, right off of Holmberg Road, by the senior lot.

[Host]

As Nikolas began shooting on the first floor, he fired in the hallways and into four of the classrooms, killing eleven people. He then moved on to the second floor of the building, and fired into two more classrooms but did not kill anyone. He then went up to the third floor, where he shot and killed six people in the hallway. He also tried to shoot through the windows to the outside, but the shots would not go through as the windows were hurricane-resistant.


During this time, James and Kimberly Snead received a phone call from their son at around 2:30pm. They could hear their son was in a panic saying that there was a school shooting. James Snead hopped in his car and drove quickly to the school. While he was driving, James received a phone call from a SWAT Captain:


[ABC Good Morning America Interview with James and Kimberly Snead]


[James Snead]

The SWAT team called me and asked where, if I knew where my son Nikolas was, and I said "he's not my son, but I don't know where he's at." And at that point I got in touch with my son, who was fleeing the scene at that point. And um, a description came out, and uh, we put two and two together, me and my son, and we figured out what was happening.


[Michael Strahan]

And, and what was going through your mind when this happened?


[Kimberly Snead]

Um, shocked...


[Michael Strahan]

Did you both find out at the same time?


[James Snead]

No, she was home sleeping and, um at that time I was panic-stricken for her safety, so I called the SWAT officer back to get the police back to my home to check on her.


[Host]

While Kimberly was at home sleeping, the police arrived at her home. When she opened the door police were standing there with guns drawn on her, telling her to put her hands in the air and asking if she was alone in the house. As they searched her home, police then told her what was occurring at Stoneman Douglas high school.

At this point, while on the Third Floor of building 12, it’s believed Nikolas' rifle jammed, as the shooting came to a sudden stop. He dropped his rifle and backpack and ran out of the building, attempting to blend in with other students exiting the campus.

Still having no identity on the shooter, authorities did not recognize or notice him leaving the school grounds.

Nikolas casually walked over to a fast food restaurant, stopped at a mall to get a soda on the way, and hung out at the restaurant for a while before leaving at 3:01pm. At around 3:40pm, about an hour following the shootings, he was apprehended by police and arrested without incident in the neighboring city of Coral Springs. He was transported to a hospital emergency room with “labored breathing,” and once he was cleared to be released, he was booked into the Broward County Jail.


[ABC News Announcement]


[Unknown Authority: Male]

Do they know where the shooter is?


[Unknown Authority: Male]

We don't know, but we're heading into the building.


[ABC News Host]

The first 911 calls came in just before Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school let out for the day. Police, FBI, ATF all descending on the scene.


[Unknown Female Parent]

We can’t get to her, we can’t get ahold of her.


[Male News Field Reporter]

Have you called and you’ve texted and nothing has come back?


[Unknown Female Parent]

No, her boyfriend got shot, we heard.


[ABC News Host]

There was confusion, panic, parents desperately waiting to find out, had their child survived?


[Sheriff Scott Israel]

It’s devastating, I’m sick to my stomach, we have multiple casualties.


[ABC News Host]

A line of ambulances, in place of school buses. Hours go by, students finally reunited with their family, their friends. And by the evening we learn the toll, 17 dead, at least 14 injured. And more about the alleged shooter, a former student, Nikolas Cruz, who stole so much from so many.


[Florida Gov. Rick Scott]

You come to the conclusion this is just absolutely, pure evil.


[ABC News Host]

Students detailing those traumatic moments from inside:


[Unknown Male Student]

All I heard was the gunshots.


[Unknown Male Student]

We heard the gunshots, we uh, hid in the tennis courts.


[ABC News Host]

Talking about what they did as gunfire echoed in the hallways:


[Student Michael Katz]

All of a sudden i hear a sound that sort of sounds like a, sort of like a garbage truck, like banging, and all of a sudden I hear a “boom, boom, boom”, I hear screaming everywhere, we ducked underneath my teacher’s desk.


[ABC News Host]

Swat teams can be seen swarming the perimeter searching for the gunman before moving inside.


[Unknown Authority: Male]

They are monitoring the subject right now, he went from the third floor to the second floor, third to the second floor. He may have a gas mask on now…


[ABC News Host]

Students barricading themselves inside classrooms, closets, anywhere they can hide.


[Unknown Officer]

Run from the auditorium, everybody down!


[ABC News Host]

As officers go room to room….


[Unknown Officer]

Police, police, police...put your phones away!…(crying heard in background)


[ABC News Host]

Some recording disturbing videos of the mayhem, many texting their parents.


[Unknown Female Parent]

She keeps telling me to stay away, be safe mom you stay away.


[Male News Field Reporter]

What’s going through your mind right now?


[Unknown Female Parent]

And I’m telling her, “no Crystal, I’m your mother, I’m not staying away.”


[ABC News Host]

Outside, controlled chaos, high schoolers streaming out of the building, some with their hands on their heads, heading for safety.


[Unknown Female Student]

I remember hearing this, somebody down the hall was screaming like “help me, come save me!”


[Unknown Male Student]

My sister’s still in there, she’s texting me about it right now, she says to be quiet.


[ABC News Host]

Students families outside, breathless, heart wrenching reunions. While others frantically wait for answers. Some students and staff, still unaccounted for.


[Unknown Female Parent]

The family keeps texting her, and she’s texting back, thank God.


[Male News Field Reporter]

Are you a bit relieved?


[Unknown Female Parent]

I’ll be relieved when she comes out.


[Male News Field Reporter]

What’d she tell you?


[Unknown Male Parent]

She’s crying, she can’t say anything, she’s crying a lot.


[ABC News Host]

This student recalled seeing her teacher shot:


[Unknown Female Student]

We saw his body for like 30 minutes, we were just like praying...and crying...and then the police came and we just got out.


[Superintendent Robert Runcie]

This is a day that we prayed would never be here at Broward County, but we’re dealing with it, and we’re gonna deal with it as a community.


[ABC News Host]

Around 4pm the alleged gunman is taken into custody. This video showing the moment he’s taken down. Sources later identify