The warnings that law enforcement officials received about Nikolas Cruz were anything but subtle.
“I know he’s going to explode,” a woman who knew Mr. Cruz said on the F.B.I.’s tip line on Jan. 5. Her big worry was that he might resort to slipping “into a school and just shooting the place up.” Forty days later, Mr. Cruz is accused of doing just that, barging into his former high school in Parkland, Fla., and shooting 17 people to death.
Three months before the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a family friend dialed 911 to tell the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office about Mr. Cruz’s personal arsenal. “I need someone here because I’m afraid he comes back and he has a lot of weapons,” the friend said.
Mr. Cruz, 19, himself called the authorities just after Thanksgiving, describing how he had been in a fight and was struggling with the death of his mother. “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 childlike voice, sounding agitated and out of breath.
The authorities have acknowledged mishandling numerous warning signs that Mr. Cruz was deeply troubled. There were tips to the F.B.I. about disturbing social media posts. There were visits by social services to his home. There were dozens of calls to 911 and the local authorities, some mentioning fears that he was capable of violence.
Reviewing the transcripts of those calls, and listening to the audiotapes of some of them, is a chilling exercise that makes Mr. Cruz’s arrest in one of America’s deadliest school shootings seem less than a complete surprise. (Read the transcripts here.)
In a 911 call on Nov. 29, Rocxanne Deschamps, the family friend who took in Mr. Cruz after the death of his mother, expressed fear that he was going to get a gun after fighting with her son. Ms. Deschamps lives in a faded, off-white mobile home, where Mr. Cruz and his younger brother, Zachary, stayed with her briefly.
In Ms. Deschamps’s 911 call, she told the dispatcher that Mr. Cruz already had about eight guns that he kept at a friend’s house and that he had just been thrown out of the house after the tantrum in which he punched the walls, hurled things around her home and got into a fight with Rock, her 22-year-old son.
“He got pissed off and then he came in the house and started banging all the doors and banging in the walls and hitting the walls and throwing everything in the room,” she said. “And then my son got in there and he said, ‘Stop it,’ and he didn’t want to stop.”
She added: “It’s not the first time he put a gun on somebody’s head.” Ms. Deschamps made it clear that her new houseguest was obsessed with firearms and had threatened both his mother and his brother. “That’s all he wants is his gun,” she said. “And that’s all he cares about is his gun. He bought tons of bullets and stuff and I took it away from him.”
Ms. Deschamps declined to comment on Friday, and her lawyer did not respond to phone messages and emails over the past week.
More than once, Mr. Cruz was identified by those around him as someone capable of carrying out a school shooting.
SOURCE: RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr., SERGE F. KOVALESKI, PATRICIA MAZZEI and ADAM GOLDMAN
The New York Times