Students and neighbors describe the suspect in the Florida high school shooting as a troubled teenager. They said he threatened and harassed other students. He talked about killing animals. And he shared photos of himself on social media posing with guns.
On Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured another 16. He used a semi-automatic rifle, an AR-15, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz had been expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons,” the county sheriff said.
Math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that before Wednesday’s fatal shooting, Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat.
“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard told the paper.
Student Victoria Olvera said Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend. She said he was expelled after a fight with another boy. School officials said Cruz had been attending a different, nearby school since his expulsion.
Cruz was an orphan. His father died many years ago, and his mother died last November.
Cruz lived with family friends in Broward County, north of Miami. A lawyer for the family said they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15. But they made him keep it locked up in a cabinet. He did have the key, however.
The lawyer, Jim Lewis, told the Associated Press the family had no idea that anything could be wrong with Cruz. He said Cruz is “just a mildly troubled kid who’d lost his mom. ... He totally kept this from everybody.”
An official in Broward County told CNN that Cruz was getting treatment at a mental health clinic. But he had not been there for more than a year.
Some students said they recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo. In it, he is posing with a gun in front of his face. The students called him “weird” and a “loner.” One of the students said he was not surprised officials had identified Cruz as the shooter: “I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him.”
The city mayor said teachers had tried to help Cruz make connections at school. But they had not succeeded, he said.
School official Robert Runcie said Cruz had not previously warned the school of an attack. He said, “There weren’t any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made.”
On Thursday morning, Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. And the shooting in Florida became the fourth-deadliest school attack in modern U.S. history.
Here is a look at the others:
1. Bath Consolidated School, Bath, Michigan
May 18, 1927: Andrew Kehoe, a farmer unhappy about the property taxes being used to fund a rural school, blew it up with a bomb. The explosion killed 45 people, including his wife and 38 children.
2. Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia
April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the college, killed 32 people and injured 17 others in the attacks at a residence hall and the Engineering, Science and Mechanics building.
3. Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut
Dec. 14, 2012: Adam Lanza killed his mother before going to the school where he killed 20 first graders and six staff members.
4. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida
Feb. 14, 2018: A gunman killed 17 students and injured 16 others both inside and outside the school.
5. University of Texas, Austin, Texas
Aug. 1, 1966: A former Marine sharpshooter, Charles Whitman, climbed to the observation deck of the university tower. From there, he killed 14 people and wounded 31 others. Before the attack on campus, Whitman had also killed his wife and mother.
6. Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado
April 20, 1999: Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed 12 fellow students and one teacher. They also injured 21 people in a planned assault.
7. Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon
Oct. 1, 2015: Christopher Harper-Mercer killed nine people and wounded seven. He let one person go to deliver a message to the police.
8. Red Lake Indian Reservation, Red Lake, Minnesota
March 21, 2005: Sixteen-year-old Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather, a tribal police officer, and his grandfather's girlfriend. Then, armed with his grandfather's police weapons, he went to Red Lake High School, where he killed seven people and wounded five others.
9. Oikos University, Oakland, California
April 2, 2012: One L. Goh, 43, stood up in a nursing class at the Korean Christian college and ordered all the students to line up against the wall. He killed seven people and wounded three others.
10. California State University, Fullerton, California
Jan. 12, 1976: University custodian Charles Allaway killed seven people and injured two others.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
And I'm Bryan Lynn.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on VOA and Associated Press reports. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
teenager - n. someone between the age of 13 and 19 years old
disciplinary - adj. intended to correct or punish bad bahavior
expel - v. to officially force someone to leave a school, a place, or an organization
premeditated - adj. planned in advance