UPDATE #03: Was the man who shot and killed students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a supporter of President Donald Trump?
Many rumors abound about Nikolas Cruz, the man responsible for killing 17 individuals at a Parkland, Florida, high school this week. Like any event this tragic, some information that gets out lacks authenticity — such as reports that he was part of a white supremacist paramilitary group in the northern part of the state.
But one rumor that’s circulating seems to have some truth to it. An image of Cruz wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat implies that he was a supporter of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and eventual presidency. Is the image authentic?
Some have made an argument claiming the image is fake, meant to dredge up hate against Trump supporters. Yet the photo, which was found on Instagram, is really Cruz, as the company confirmed while explaining why they were deleting his account.
Instagram implicitly confirming that an account with a MAGA Trump hat avatar belonged to gunman Nikolas Cruz. Asked why the account was removed, spokesperson says: pic.twitter.com/LdXb73iCj8— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) February 15, 2018
In their statement, Instagram wrote:
This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected. There is absolutely no place on our platforms for people who commit such horrendous acts. We have found and immediately deleted the shooter's accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Cruz’s classmates also confirm that he was a supporter of Trump, specifically the nationalistic sentiments that the president has engaged in since taking office. The Daily Beast reports that kids from the high school who knew Cruz frequently saw him wearing “patriotic” attire. And one student who was interviewed by the publication said he remembers the MAGA hat.
“I’ve seen him wear a Trump hat,” the student, Ocean Parodie, said.
Individuals should always be cautious in the wake of such tragedies. Some reporting can be based on false statements from others. In this instance, however, it seems Cruz harbored supportive sentiments for the current president.
But we should also be cautious about what that means. Just because Cruz was a Trump supporter doesn’t mean that all Trump supporters think or behave the way he does. Still, some concern should be given as to whether those with extremist and violent viewpoints are being motivated to carry them out due to our current president’s own penchant for violent rhetoric.
UPDATE #02 : Soon after reports emerged about Nikolas Cruz allegedly being trained by the Republic of Florida (ROF), a white supremacist paramilitary group, law-enforcement officials released a statement, saying they have not yet found any evidence linking the suspect with the group.
“We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” a spokesperson for Leon County Sheriff’s Office told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.
In addition, ROF leader Jordan Jereb has also, apparently, backtracked from his initial claim, suggesting he may have been confused about Cruz.
“There was a misunderstanding because we have MULTIPLE people named Nicholas in ROF,” a user named @JordanJereb posted on Gab, a Twitter-like social media platform for racist online trolls.
Nicolas Cruz, the arrested shooter from Wednesday's high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, had his yearbook photo recovered by Instagram user brandon_levin on Wednesday afternoon.— Wael Ahmed (@WaelTheTrader) February 14, 2018
Levin's account was made private, but a screenshootof his most-recent post was taken. #Parkland pic.twitter.com/JLdgPdqSCs
UPDATE: Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the horrific Parkland, Florida, school massacre, appears to have made a public comment on YouTube threatening to shoot at a school, CNN reports.
YouTube video blogger Ben Bennight, 36, said he noticed a comment on one of his videos in September 2017 from Cruz saying that he was “going to be a professional school shooter.”
Bennight promptly reported the incident to the FBI, but the FBI never alerted local authorities.
The federal agency was also told about Cruz from another source but again, failed to share information with local Florida officials.
Long before this comment, however, Cruz was also known for being part of a group called Republic of Florida, Mediaite reports. The group has been described as a white nationalist organization “fighting for white identitarian politics” by its leader, Jordan Jereb.
Jereb told the Anti-Defamation League that Cruz, 19, had been involved in training exercises carried out by the organization that seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.
Former classmates who knew Cruz also told reporters that everyone knew the 19-year-old was part of the white nationalist group and that he was often seen with Jereb.
The white nationalist group’s leader said that while Cruz was part of the organization, the attack was not ordered by members or leaders of Republic of Florida.
The group, he explained to ADL, had “not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting.”
After being apprehended two hours after the shooting started, Cruz was charged Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He has been booked at Broward County's Main Jail in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Initials reports indicate at least 17 people dead as a result of the tragedy, making it one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history.
As details continue to emerge, here's what we know about the suspected shooter, who has been taken into custody.
He has been identified as Nikolas Cruz.
Cruz previously attended the school but was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
After the police arrested him, he was found armed with at least one AR-15 assault rifle and "countless magazines." This particular revelation, however, did not come as a surprise to those who knew Cruz.
He has been described as a “troubled kid” who "always had guns on him," according to a student, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Other people who knew Cruz told The New York Times he was obsessed with guns and liked "showing off" his firearms collection. Sometimes, Cruz bragged about killing animals as well.
An Instagram page, believed to be Cruz's and has been deleted following the shooting, purportedly shows him posing with weapons, including guns and knives.
At times, Cruz's mother was forced to call the police to "try to talk some sense" into him.
As per a family member who spoke to ABC News, Cruz and his younger brother were adopted. Their adoptive parents have died. Roger Cruz, his father, died a few years ago, and his mother, Lynda, died last November.
Other family members told the Orlando Sentinel Cruz was struggling with emotional difficulties.
"He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. [He] did have some kind of emotional or difficulties,” Barbara Kumbatovich, a relative, told the paper. “[Lynda] kept a really close handle on both boys. They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do like not coming home on time, maybe being disrespectful.”
At school, he didn't have many friends and didn't socialize much. Still, those who knew him, feared he was capable of committing a massacre, which he did, eventually.
"The crazy stuff that he did was not right for school, and he got kicked out of school multiple times for that kind of stuff," the anonymous student added.
Another student said the school used to joke about Cruz's tendency to "shoot up the school."
Last November, in the wake of the country's worst mass shooting in Las Vegas, an analysis of nine of the shooters on the list of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. showed they had a history of committing and/or threatening violence against women, or disparaging women.
It appears, Cruz is also part of this troubling trend.
Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, told The Boston Globe he was expelled last school year after a fight with his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend. The student added the suspect had been "abusive" to his girlfriend.
Another 17-year-old junior, Dakota Mutchler, told the Globe Cruz "started going after," one of her friends, "threatening her" after his expulsion. That's when she cut him off completely.
What hasn't been confirmed:
Cashing in on his last name “Cruz,” some internet trolls are speculating the shooter is not only Hispanic, but also a dreamer, the name given to children of undocumented immigrants, currently the center of a major political debate. Some are even baselessly claiming he is part of the antifa, an anti-fascist movement has been growing since President Donald Trump was elected.
However, none of the two rumors have been confirmed by authorities.
Cruz is currently in custody and, so far, the motive behind the rampage is unknown. More details are emerging and this piece will be updated accordingly.
Banner / Thumbnail : Boward County Sheriff's Office