It wasn’t long after the Parkland, FL, high school shooter had been identified that it became obvious that he had shown warning signs that hinted of instability:
For years before Nikolas Cruz gunned down classmates and teachers at his former high school, his mother had repeatedly called police to the home to help deal with his violent outbursts, threats and self-destructive behavior, according to police documents obtained by CNN on Friday.
The incident reports, which are as recent as September 2016, describe Cruz as suffering from mental illness and being “emotionally handicapped,” and being on behavioral medication. One notes, “He has mentioned in the past that he would like to purchase a firearm.”
The documents include more than 30 reports going back as far as 2011, covering misbehavior by Cruz and some by his younger brother. They add further depth to the emerging portrait of Cruz as an unstable teen who had long been on the radar of law enforcement, behavioral specialists, teachers and fellow students.
Police placed the teen in handcuffs and sat him in the back of the police car as cops interviewed his mom. Nina Barela, a counselor from the nearby Henderson Behavioral Health facility, where Cruz was a client for years, arrived at the home and “gave Nikolas his prescribed medication.” The boy soon “began to calm down and cooperated.”
Based on that fact and that he “did not make any threats of harm to him or others,” the report said, Barela advised that it was unnecessary to invoke a Florida law allowing police to put a mentally ill person in custody.
“A Baker Act was not needed,” the report said.
And that points to a situation where an individual who has difficulty managing their emotions is still not so far gone that they merit involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility. This may be messy but the alternative–think “One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest”–is worse.
But now we learn that the authorities–gasp, shocked face–might have been economical with the truth:
Just months before Nikolas Cruz killed 17 at his former high school in South Florida, the host family who had taken him in immediately after his mother’s death warned local law enforcement that the 19-year-old had “used a gun against people before” and “has put the gun to others’ heads in the past,” according to records obtained by CNN.
Rock (son of the woman who took Cruz in when his mother died) interrupted Cruz and a fight broke out between them, according to the documents. Cruz left the home, and Rocxanne Deschamps called 911. She warned the police dispatcher that Cruz said “he was going to get his gun and come back,” records show. She said Cruz had “bought a gun from Dick’s last week and is now going to pick it up.”
Rocxanne Deschamps told the dispatcher that Cruz had “bought tons of ammo” and “has used a gun against ppl before,” the notes said. “He has put the gun to others heads in the past.”
I’m not an authority on this, but it seems to me that if the test for commitment is “danger to self or others” and there is a 911 call complaining of a kid holding a gun against someone else’s head, you may have passed the threshold test. When he’s said he’s ‘going to get a gun and come back’ that might qualify as a threat. Knowing this and knowing he’d just bought a gun should be a concern.
I’m sure cops face these decisions every day and there is no blowback until there is blowback. Maybe that sheriff in CNN’s little spectacle last night should have had to explain his actions to the audience instead of blaming the NRA and gun owners.