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Gun violence in the US

‘Crazy about guns’: Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz described as troubled ex-student who made disturbing social media posts about killing animals

Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from the school for reasons that have not been made public, was found with multiple ammunition magazines and one AR-15-style rifle

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 9:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:32am

The man accused of opening fire at a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing 17 people, was a troubled former student who loved guns and was expelled for disciplinary reasons, police and former classmates said.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, was arrested about an hour after a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.

Cruz, who had been expelled from the school for reasons that have not been made public, was found with multiple ammunition magazines and one AR-15-style rifle, Israel said.

“We already began to dissect his websites and the things on social media that he was on and some of the things that came to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.

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.

Chad Williams, 18, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High school, remembered Cruz as a troubled classmate from when they attended middle school together.

He said Cruz would set off the fire alarm, day after day, and finally got expelled in the eighth grade.

More recently, Williams saw Cruz carrying several publications about guns when they ran into each other at the high school. Williams thought Cruz was there to pick up a younger sibling.

“He was crazy about guns,” Williams said.

“He was kind of an outcast. He didn’t have many friends. He would do anything crazy for a laugh, but he was trouble.”

Jillian Davis, 19, said she was in a school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps with Cruz in the 9th grade.

She remembered him as a quiet and shy young man who would almost change personality when angry.

He talked a lot about guns and knives but no one took him seriously, she said.

“I would say he was not the most normal or sane kid in JROTC. He definitely had a little something off about him. He was a little extra quirky,” said Davis, who graduated from the school last year.

Maths teacher Jim Gard told The Miami Herald that Cruz had been banned from returning to campus while carrying a backpack.

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

Administrators sent an email to teachers warning them about Cruz, Gard told the paper.

Another student at the school told local WSVN-TV that Cruz was known to have guns at home.

Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday’s attack, said he recognised 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.

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

Reuters and Associated Press