Florida school shooting suspect visited Subway, McDonald's after rampage

Nikolas Cruz to be held without bond after court appearance Thursday

PARKLAND, Fla. - UPDATE 4:49 p.m.

A Florida sheriff said the suspect in a high school shooting that killed 17 people fired into five classrooms before dropping his rifle and fleeing on foot.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz fired into three rooms on the second floor of the school in Parkland, then went back and fired again into two of those rooms. He said the shooter fired into one other room on that floor before moving to the third floor and shooting one person in a classroom there.

The sheriff said the gunman then dropped his rifle and backpack containing extra ammunition and ran out of the school. As he crossed fields, he tried to blend in with fleeing students.

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.

A Florida sheriff said the suspect in a school shooting that killed 17 people stopped at fast food restaurants after the attack.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference Thursday that Nikolas Cruz tried to mix in with a group of students fleeing the school. The sheriff said he then headed to a Wal-Mart and bought a drink at a Subway restaurant before walking to a McDonald's.

Israel said Cruz was confronted by a police officer and taken into custody about 40 minutes after leaving the McDonald's.
UPDATE 3:30 p.m.

A Broward County Sheriff’s Office report says Nikolas Cruz confessed to being the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

According to the report, he told interrogating officers that he “began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on school grounds” on Wednesday afternoon.

The report adds that Cruz told officers he “brought additional loaded magazines to the school campus and kept them hidden in a backpack until he got on campus to begin his assault.”

Cruz told investigators that as students began to flee, he decided to discard his AR-15 rifle and a vest he was wearing so he could blend in with the crowd. Police recovered the rifle and the vest.

The police report adds that Cruz purchased the rifle in February 2017, but does not say where it was purchased.

Updated at 1:03 p.m.:

A judge ordered Nikolas Cruz to be held without bond. Cruz made his first court appearance on Thursday in a Florida magistrate court.

New Information (12:55 p.m.)

A Mississippi bail bondsman named Benjamin Bennight says he alerted the FBI last September after someone using the screen name “Nikolas Cruz” posted a comment on his YouTube channel saying: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”

Bennight explains in a video post that he flagged it for YouTube and called an FBI office in Mississippi to report it. He says FBI agents visited him the next day.

Agent Rob Lasky says the agency did a database review but couldn’t determine the time, location or true identity of the person making the comment.

Bennight says the FBI came calling again within hours of the shooting. He says “they’re going to have to get with YouTube about where the comment originated, but I think they already know.” 

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New information (12:45 p.m.) 

The leader of a white nationalist militia says Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.

Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group, the Republic of Florida, wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. He said his group holds “spontaneous random demonstrations” and tries not to participate in the modern world.

Jereb said he didn’t know Cruz personally and that “he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did.”

He also said he had “trouble with a girl” and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine’s Day, wasn’t a coincidence. 

Original story:

The suspect in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, according to a law enforcement official and former schoolmates.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons.”

“I don’t know the specifics,” the sheriff said.

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However, Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.

School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.

Cruz’s mother Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia on Nov. 1 neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel. Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.

The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said.

Unhappy there, Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in northwest Broward. The family agreed and Cruz moved in around Thanksgiving. According to the family’s lawyer, who did not identify them, they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet. He did have the key, however.

RELATED: Teacher hid 19 students in a closet when a gunman opened fire

Jim Lewis said the family is devastated and didn’t see this coming. They are cooperating with authorities, he said.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn’t been back to the clinic for more than a year. 

RELATED: Interactive story map details school shootings in U.S. in 2018

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said.

“We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected ... Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. ... In this case, we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid,” Furr said.

Israel said investigators were dissecting the suspect’s social media posts.

“And some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” he added without elaborating.

Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday’s attack, said he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo in which Cruz posed with a gun in front of his face. Huerfano recalled Cruz as a shy student and remembered seeing him walking around with his lunch bag.

“He was that weird kid that you see ... like a loner,” he added.

Dakota Mutchler, a 17-year-old junior, said he used to be close friends with Cruz but hadn’t seen him in more than a year following his expulsion from school.

“He started progressively getting a little more weird,” Mutchler said.

Mutchler recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

“He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there,” Mutchler said.

Law enforcement officers block off a street following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Mutchler said.

Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he did not know of any threats posed by Cruz to the school.

“Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there,” Runcie said. “I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn’t have any warnings. There weren’t any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made.”

However, a teacher told The Miami Herald that Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat to other students. Jim Gard, a math teacher who said Cruz had been in his class last year, said he believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn’t be allowed on campus with a backpack.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard said.

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