Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students describe suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz as ‘troubled’ and say some people had been scared of him
Students who had been at school with suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, said “everyone predicted” he could “do something” like the tragedy that unfolded on Wednesday afternoon, and that some children had been scared of him.
Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, for disciplinary reasons, according to Broward County sheriff Scott Israel.
The sheriff was not aware of the specific circumstances of the exclusion, he said, nor whether Cruz had currently been attending another school.
“This morning when he woke up, whether he was a student or not, I don’t know,” he said.
Israel said Cruz was heavily armed with at least one assault rifle. “He had countless magazines, multiple magazines. He had an AR-15, I don’t know if he had a second one,” the sheriff said.
Footage from news helicopters showed the suspect being escorted into a hospital. He had been captured away from the premises and was seen being driven away in a police cruiser.
Dakota Mutchler, a 17-year-old junior at the school, said he had once been friends with the suspect, but that Cruz started “progressively getting a little more weird, and I kind of cut off from him”. Mutchler said Cruz posted about killing animals on social media and talked about guns and target practice.
“Everyone in the school that knew him speculated about him,” said Mutchler. “When someone’s expelled, you don’t really expect them to come back … If they’re expelled, they’re gone. But of course, he came back.”
Mutchler added that he stopped communicating with the suspect after “he started going after one of my friends and threatening her”.
Cruz worked at a discount store near the school, Mutchler said.
Victoria Olvera, also a 17-year-old junior, said of the suspect: “At first, he was really nice.” But later, she said, “he just changed. As far as I knew, he was like a future school shooter.”
One student at the school, speaking to CNN but without disclosing his identity, said: “A lot of people were saying that it was going to be him. All the kids joked … saying he was the one that screwed up at school, but it turns out everyone predicted it. That’s crazy.”
Cruz’s mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia on in November last year, neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel. Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.
The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said.
Unhappy there, Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in north-west Broward. The family agreed and Cruz moved in around Thanksgiving. According to the family’s lawyer, Jim Lewis, they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet. He did have the key, however.
Lewis said the family was devastated and did not see this coming. They are cooperating with authorities, he said.
One 17-year-old told local TV station WSVN: “He’s been a troubled kid and he’s always had a certain amount of issues going on. He shot guns because he felt it gave him, I guess, an exhilarating feeling. He showed me on his phone. I stayed clear of him most of the time, I didn’t want to be with him.
“It surprises me it’s going on today but it doesn’t surprise me to know it’s him,” the 17-year-old said.
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