Brother: Park­land sus­pect sent self texts about want­ing to kill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National - By Skyler Swisher and Lisa J. Huri­ash

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Be­fore com­mit­ting Florida’s worst school shoot­ing, Niko­las Cruz sent text mes­sages to him­self about how he in­tended to “shoot ev­ery­body,” his brother told a de­tec­tive just hours af­ter the at­tack on Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School.

Zachary Cruz, 18, said he found the mes­sages while scrolling through his brother’s phone, and al­though he was star­tled, he didn’t re­port them to po­lice be­cause he thought his brother wasn’t se­ri­ous, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view tran­script re­leased Wed­nes­day.

“I’m gonna kill them,” Zachary Cruz re­called reading on his brother’s phone. “I’m gonna go to that school. I’m gonna shoot ev­ery­body.”

Those words ended up be­com­ing a hor­rific re­al­ity Feb. 14 when Niko­las Cruz al­legedly opened fire and killed 17 peo­ple at Stone­man Dou­glas. The mes­sages on his phone were just one in a string of red flags be­fore the at­tack.

Zachary Cruz said while speak­ing un­der oath that those mes­sages weren’t the only warn­ing signs he saw. His brother also told him in October he would “kill peo­ple” if his mother died, ac­cord­ing to the tran­script.

Their mother — Lynda Cruz — died Nov. 1 of pneu­mo­nia, about three months be­fore­the Park­land shoot­ing.

Zachary Cruz told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was “too ig­no­rant to take him se­ri­ous” and in­sisted he didn’t know any­thing about the specifics of the Park­land shoot­ing.

“I was scared be­cause I was like, you know, he might do some­thing,” Zachary Cruz said. “But … I never took it se­ri­ous be­cause … he would al­ways joke about stuff.”

In the in­ter­view, Zachary Cruz de­tailed his brother’s ob­ses­sion with guns, telling the de­tec­tive his brother shot an AR-15 in the fam­ily’s garage once and shot a gun out of a win­dow to­ward palm trees dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Irma. Niko­las Cruz’s Ins tag ram ac­count name was niko­las cruz ma karov,a ref­er­ence to the Rus­sian Makarov semi au­to­matic pis­tol.

Af­ter find­ing out his brother had killed 17 peo­ple, Zachary asked the de­tec­tive: “Could he get the death penalty?”

The de­tec­tive said he couldn’t say ex­actly what would hap­pen.

Zachary Cruz told the de­tec­tive he didn’t want his brother to die. With a no­ta­tion that the de­tec­tive was out of the room, the tran­script quoted Zachary Cruz say­ing — “I still love that fool. Why didyou have to do this, dog?”

‘He’s threat­ened me’

The tran­scripts also pro­vide a glimpse into the time af­ter their mother died when the Cruz broth­ers lived with fam­ily friend Rocx­anne Deschamps, 43, in her Lan­tana home with her son Rock Deschamps-Le­tang.

Niko­las Cruz — even at a young age — would threaten to kill peo­ple, Mr. Deschamps-Le­tang, 23, said.

“He’s threat­ened me,” Mr. Deschamps-Le­tang told in­ves­ti­ga­tors. “He’s threat­ened his brother, his mother. He’s threat­ened many peo­ple to kill, kill, kill. … He has fan­tasies — very, very bad fan­tasiesof killing.”

Rocx­anne Deschamps iden­ti­fied Mr. Cruz on surveil­lance footage show­ing the shooter en­ter­ing the school. She said he was “the sweet­est kid” when he moved into her home but “he switched” and she kicked him out af­ter less thana month.

Other doc­u­ments re­leased Wed­nes­day say that be­fore shoot­ing up Stone­man Dou­glas, the killer used a school com­puter to re­search howto make a nail bomb.

Al­though Niko­las Cruz did not use a bomb in the at­tack, his searches in an en­gi­neer­ing class caught the at­ten­tion of a class­mate in­ter­viewed by in­ves­ti­ga­tors af­ter the killing.

“He would look up strange things … such as 666,” the uniden­ti­fied stu­dent re­called, adding, “It just made me feel very creeped out and scared.”

The re­ports re­leased Wed­nes­day re­vealed more warn­ingsigns about Niko­las Cruz.

Mr. Cruz had a swastika drawn on his back­pack and once said he was glad that “all those gay peo­ple” were killed at the Pulse night­club shoot­ing in Or­lando, the stu­dent said.

That stu­dent also said he felt so sorry for Mr. Cruz — who was fail­ing his classes — that he let him cheat off him. “He would get so happy when … he did well. He wasn’t com­pletely gone. He ac­tu­ally still cared.”

The wit­nesses who spoke to po­lice af­ter the mas­sacre ranged from the peo­ple who knew Mr. Cruz be­fore the shoot­ing to those who were able to es­cape his bul­lets at Stone­man Dou­glas.

Be­hav­ior to­ward an­i­mals, oth­ers

Many wit­nesses shared a theme: Mr. Cruz’s be­hav­ior to­ward an­i­mals.

He brought dead birds and squir­rels in his lunch­box to show off what he caught and killed. He showed an­other stu­dent a pic­ture of a de­cap­i­tated cat.

Dana Craig, who was a junior last school year, had known Mr. Cruz for years and he once dated her friend, she told in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

“We all knew that he wasn’t right,” she said. “We knew he had men­tal prob­lems. We knew that he … was at­tack­ing an­i­mals.”

He would shoot squir­rels and lizards. He was es­pe­cially an­gry at frogs.

“His dog died from eat­ing frogs so he felt like an­gry at them and he would mainly shoot frogs,” she said.

Ms. Craig said her friend broke off a re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Cruz be­cause he had been phys­i­cally abu­sive.

Af­ter Ms. Craig told her friendto break off the re­la­tion­ship in 2016, she said Mr. Cruz turned on her, telling her that “he was go­ing to kill me and rapeme and hurt my fam­ily.”

Ms. Craig and her friend didn’t speak to Mr. Cruz again, but Ms. Craig said he would “throw things” at the pair dur­ing lunch at school.

When the friend started dat­ing some­one else, that stu­dent started get­ting on­line threats from Mr. Cruz.

Ms. Craig said Mr. Cruz would send pic­tures through In­sta­gram of guns or an­i­mals hehad killed “as threats.”

Oth­ers wit­nesses said Mr. Cruz threat­ened them di­rectly.

Gio­vana Can­tone told in­ves­ti­ga­tors her daugh­ter worked with Mr. Cruz at the Dol­lar Tree in Park­land last year. When Ms. Can­tone went to the cashier last sum­mer, Mr. Cruz rang her up, and she tried to con­sole him for hav­ing been ex­pelled from Stone­man Dou­glas. She told him her own daugh­ter Ina had switched schools and was do­ing well, and he could con­sider a new school or even get his­de­gree on­line.

“Thanks­for the tip,” he told her. “He says ‘I can do that’ … orhe says ‘I go shoot them.’”

“Don’t talk like that, that’s not good,” she told him. “I didn’t think he re­ally meant it,”she told in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

“I can go shoot them and you know I can shoot you, too,”he told her.

Fright­ened, Ms. Can­tone left­the store.

She never re­ported the in­ci­dent. “I let it go,” she told in­ves­ti­ga­tors. “I’m sorry I did that.”

Ina Can­tone told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Mr. Cruz seemed “off” and made high school girls un­com­fort­able when they came to the Dol­lar Tree and he tried to get their phone num­bers. He con­fided to Ina Can­tone once that he wanted a re­la­tion­ship be­cause he was lonely.

“He didn’t seem all that there in his head,” she said.

Bruno Car­doso lived di­rectly be­hind the Cruz fam­ily in Park­land when Mr. Cruz’s mother was still alive. He told in­ves­ti­ga­tors Lynda Cruz was in the back­yard, smok­ing, quite a bit, and Niko­las came out­side in his un­der­wear sev­eral times for tar­get prac­tice. He shot at cans, bot­tles and buck­ets.

Wor­ried be­cause he has a teenage daugh­ter, he video­taped Mr. Cruz, to show a friend to con­firm the sil­ver gun might have been a BB gun.

He said the Cruz fam­ily “al­ways” kept their blinds closed. “Re­ally weird fam­ily,” he said.

Taimy Al­varez/South Florida Sun Sen­tinel via AP

School-shoot­ing sus­pect Niko­las Cruz sits in a court­house on June 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.