According to reports, Nikolas Cruz, the disturbed young man who took 17 lives in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was not only known to the community as a potential threat; he knew it about himself.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cruz was “clinically depressed [and] distraught following a romantic breakup” in 2016. Following the death of his mother in November 2017, his distress apparently worsened, leading to an altercation with the family who took him in. After that fight, Cruz called police himself and admitted to a deteriorating mental state.
Just weeks before the call to the FBI tipline, Mr. Cruz himself called 911 after a violent episode at the house where he was living. Punches had been thrown, household items broken, and he fled to a nearby park.
“I kind of got mad and I started punching walls and stuff,” Mr. Cruz told the dispatcher, his voice trembling during a 5½ minute call in late November, according to police records released this week. “The thing is I lost my mother a couple weeks ago, so like, I’m dealing with a bunch of [inaudible] right now.”
The Journal report also provides audio and details about several of the growing list of calls made about Cruz starting as far back as 2009 when he was 9 years old. (Buzzfeed puts the number of calls at 45 from as far back as 2008.)
In the wake of the shooting, the Broward County Sheriff’s office, particularly Sheriff Scott Israel, have come under scrutiny for not only a failure to act on the day of the shooting — the armed school resource officer, a member of that office, never went in to help — but for their refusal to accept responsibility for missing years of red flags regarding Cruz.
The Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Israel has been a gun-control advocate with connections to sketchy political operatives for some time. And he has had problems in the past with shoddy police work.
Israel has historically been vocal concerning gun violence, opposing open-carry legislation and one law that would allow concealed weapons on campuses. He began implementing body cameras for his deputies in 2016. This week, Israel announced that deputies guarding Broward County Schools will now carry rifle, including AR-15s…
…This isn’t the first time Israel’s agency has encountered trouble over its response to a mass shooting. Months after the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shooting, a 2017 Sun-Sentinel investigation revealed that Israel’s Broward Sheriff’s Office failed to “seize control and set up an effective command system” at the airport. BSO “erred from the very beginning in controlling the shooting scene in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, where five people died and six others were wounded.” The reason, cited in a 99-page draft report by the agency itself, mentioned the sheriff’s office’s aging radio system, which garbled communications among officers, forcing police to improvise with “hand signals, runners and cellphones.”
Israel has also been scrutinized for his relationship with political operative Roger Stone. A Fort Lauderdale resident who built his career on smearing political enemies, Stone had a hand in the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, John McCain and Donald Trump. While backing then sheriff Al Lamberti in 2011, Stone told the Sun-Sentinel that “Scott Israel is an unqualified punk, a racist and a thief.”
One year later, Stone switched sides, helping Israel defeat Lamberti in the 2012 sheriff’s race.
Survivors of the shooting have been making media appearances since the tragedy occurred, blaming the National Rifle Association for what happened that fateful day and even suggesting that Israel is less responsible for the failures of his department than Florida Gov. Rick Scott (who has introduced a new “age-minimum” requirement for firearms purchases).
While all of these debates are fine to have after the fact, circumstances leading up to the shooting — where, it should be reiterated, 17 lives were brutally ripped away — are beginning to come into focus and it looks clearer by the day that the cries for help from the community, and indeed from the shooter himself, were routinely ignored.