Brother: Parkland suspect sent self texts about wanting to kill
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.
School-shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz sits in a courthouse on June 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.