BY NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, JOEY FLECHAS, JAY WEAVER AND DAVID OVALLE
February 15, 2018 05:38 PM
Updated February 15, 2018 10:47 PM
Nikolas Cruz confessed to the worst school shooting in Florida history, according to police accounts released late Thursday that paint a chilling narrative of a calculated mass murder.
It started with the killer arriving in an Uber. It ended with his peaceful arrest, after he escaped to a Walmart, where he bought a drink at the Subway inside.
An arrest report makes it clear that staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High immediately recognized Nikolas Cruz as a “former troubled student” as he emerged Wednesday from a small gold Uber car, carrying a black duffel bag and wearing a black hat. One staffer radioed a co-worker to alert authorities that Cruz was “walking purposefully” toward the school in Parkland.
But within seconds, it was too late. Cruz, according to an arrest report, methodically began firing an AR-15 assault rifle that had been stashed in the bag, methodically mowing down students and adults in the hallways. As chaos ensued, Cruz admitted to homicide detectives, the gunman ditched the gun to “blend into the crowd” fleeing the school.
The charging document filled in some details of the shooting that left 17 people dead and 15 wounded but did not address perhaps the biggest question — why. Cruz, who fellow students and former teachers say had a troubled history of fighting and had once been suspended for bringing bullets in a backpack, had been formally expelled from the school a year earlier. Many at the school speculate that’s why he picked out his old school as a target for revenge.
But whether Cruz, who made his first court appearance in Broward County criminal court on Thursday and was held with no bond, gave detectives a clear or coherent motive for the crime during hours of questioning remains unknown. He said little during a brief hearing as a judge declared there was probable cause for him to be held on 17 counts of first-degree murder.
He is now on suicide watch at the Broward County jail. The details of his mental health and his tumultuous life could become a factor as lawyers begin to mount a defense. Broward chief assistant public defender Gordon Weekes, whose office represented Cruz at the brief hearing told reporters: “He is deeply troubled.”
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
That was no surprise to his former neighbors in Parkland, who recalled a troubled child.
Police repeatedly visited his Parkland home because of his erratic, sometimes violent behavior, which included pelting a neighbor’s car with eggs. Jug-eared with freckles, he sometimes sat on the curb alone, avoided by neighborhood kids. He tormented animals, shooting at rodents and chickens with a BB gun.
“That child had an extremely cold stare,” said neighbor Rhonda Roxburgh. “He was going to hurt somebody. I just didn’t know it would be this bad.”
While the exact nature of Cruz’s mental state remains unknown — one relative said he suffered from autism — it is clear the teenager struggled with deep emotional outbursts for years, providing plenty of warning signs preceding the worst school shooting in Florida history. How Broward schools dealt with his episodes, and whether anything could have prevented his rampage, remain shrouded in secrecy because of federal student-privacy laws.
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