PARKLAND, FL — Authorities have revealed new and disturbing details about the former student who allegedly opened fire at a Florida high school, killing at least 17 adults and children.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been kicked off campus after being identified as a potential threat to his fellow classmates, according to police. Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but he returned to campus Wednesday and murdered at least 17 people with a .223 caliber AR-15, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.
Cruz was taken into custody after the shooting, and investigators were examining his social media, Israel added. “We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on, and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.
The FBI was unable to uncover the identity of YouTube user “Nikolas Cruz” after a bail bondsman in Mississippi alerted federal officials when a man now believed to be the school shooter of the same name posted an alarming message online last year. YouTube vlogger Ben Bennight alerted the FBI to a comment shared by Cruz on one of his videos back in September: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
After the email address he found listed on the FBI website came back as invalid, Bennight said he called his local field agency. Bennight revealed that the FBI arrived at his office the very next day, according to DailyMail.com. He said the agency called him back with additional questions after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
On Thursday, Special Agent Rob Laskey revealed that the agency was unable to learn anything about the person who posted the comment. “No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment,” Laskey said. “The FBI conducted data reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.”
Bennight thought they had done all they could have at the time, saying, “I’m not sure that there’s really anything the FBI could have done with that information other than keep an eye on somebody.”
Heavy.com linked to images from a (now-deleted) Instagram account under the name Nikolas Cruz that showed knives, guns, ammunition, and a post that pictured an anti-Muslim slur. Several other media outlets quoted fellow students as stating that Cruz’s behavior was alarming, and that he had joked about school shootings on at least one past occasion.
Assistant football coach, Aaron Feis, and athletic director, Chris Hixon, were among those killed during the shooting. School officials stated that both of the men were “heroes” because they put their lives at risk to protect students.
“We had an athletic director, a campus monitor who responded immediately when there was signs of trouble in the school,” Broward County Superintendent of Schools Robert W. Runcie said during a news conference Thursday. “Unfortunately those two heroes gave their lives for our kids and probably helped prevent this from being a worse tragedy than it is today.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott has ordered that government flags be flown at half mast through Monday in honor of victims. The school is closed for the rest of the week, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. The district will offer grief counseling to students and their families.
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Main photo: Nikolas Cruz [Broward County Sheriff]