The 19-year-old man charged with killing 17 people at his former Florida high school on Wednesday trained with a white-supremacist group, the group’s leader told the Anti-Defamation League.
Jordan Jereb of the Republic of Florida told ADL that shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz had participated in at least one training exercise near Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida.
The group describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.
On Wednesday, Cruz allegedly entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 and opened fire, killing at least 17 people and injuring 14 more. Cruz fled the scene but was later captured by police and has been charged with premeditated murder.
The Miami Herald reported that the suspect had been expelled from school and had been flagged as a potential threat.
According to the Herald, Cruz was kicked out of school after bringing ammunition with him in his backpack and spoke frequently about guns and knives. He had no prior arrests.
Cruz “threatened to bring the guns to school multiple times,” senior Eddie Bonilla said. Other students, he said, “threw jokes around that he’d be the one to shoot up the school.”
17-year-old student Ocean Parodie told The Daily Beast that he saw Cruz “wear a Trump hat” to class. Pictures reportedly belonging to Cruz’s social media profile show him wearing a bandana and a “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) hat.
The Daily Beast adds:
“He always wore like really patriotic shirts that seemed really extreme, like hating on the Islamic religion. For example, he would say things such as like, he would degrade islamic people as terrorists and bombers. I’ve seen him wear a Trump hat,” Parodie said.
YouTube comments by a person of the same name spewed commentary about Antifa activists and Muslims—shared targets of white supremacists. “Iam going to kill them in the future,” one comment on a video titled “Antifa Gun Club!” read. “Im going watch them sheep fall fuck antifa i wish to kill as many as i can,” another comment about six months ago read.
Cruz also celebrated Elliot Rodger, the gunman who killed seven people at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014, who is considered a hero of the fringe men’s rights movement.
Student Victoria Olvera, 17, said Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend, reports The Boston Globe.
According to Buzzfeed, FBI officials were alerted last September to a school shooting threat left on YouTube by a person named Nikolas Cruz — the name of the Florida high school shooting suspect.
A YouTuber named Ben Bennight contacted the FBI’s tip account last September and sent a screenshot of a comment Nikolas Cruz left on one of his videos that said: “Im [sic] going to be a professional school shooter.”
Bennight told Buzzfeed that agents responded “immediately” and interviewed him.
“They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person,” Bennight added.
“I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”