The family that took in suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz after his adoptive mother died suddenly last year said that, although the 19-year-old was troubled, it was unaware of any red flags to hint beforehand that he planned to carry out last week’s deadly attack.
Cruz opened fire Wednesday on students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in what police believe was a preplanned attack, authorities said last week. The shooting left 14 students and three teachers dead. More than a dozen other people were injured.
“We knew he had troubles and a couple of issues, but I’ve raised three boys, and I thought we could help,” James Snead told The New York Times on Sunday. “It’s a very selfish thing he did -- aside from the families he hurt, he hurt the family that tried to help him and give him a chance.”
James Snead and his wife, Kimberly Snead, told the Times that they took in Cruz after their son, who knew Cruz from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, asked if he could move in with them. Cruz had been staying with a friend of his mother’s after she died Nov. 1 of pneumonia, according to the Times.
“We didn’t know he had such an evil past,” James Snead told the Times. “We just didn’t know.”
School records obtained by WPLG showed Cruz had a lengthy disciplinary record beginning in 2012, when he was in middle school. He faced disciplinary action five times while attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High from January 2016 to February 2017, WPLG reported.
School administrators in January 2017 recommended a threat assessment be done for Cruz after an alleged assault, according to WPLG. Details on that incident were not immediately available, although James Snead told the Times that Cruz had to leave school because of fighting.
The Sneads said Cruz was struggling with depression stemming from his mother’s death but that he appeared to be doing better, according to the Times. The couple had planned to have him see a counselor this week.
They said in an appearance on “Good Morning America” that they saw Cruz at the police station Wednesday when he was brought in after his arrest.
“I went after him,” Kimberly Snead said. “I wanted to strangle him more than anything.”
She said she yelled, “Really, Nik? Really?” Cruz mumbled something in response.
“He said he was sorry,” Kimberly Snead told “Good Morning America.” “I was furious. Heartbroken. Devastated. I still can’t process it, what he’s done. This wasn’t the person we knew. Not at all.”
James Snead said the family has gone through “a roller coaster of emotions” since learning of Cruz’s alleged role in Wednesday’s massacre.
"It's still tough. We're still hurting. We're still grieving," he said on “Good Morning America.” "Everything everybody seems to know, we didn't know.”
FBI officials said they investigated a comment made last year on YouTube by a user who was going by the name “Nikolas Cruz.”
“The comment simply said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter,’” Rob Lasky, the FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Miami division, said Thursday. Authorities were unable to verify the identity of the poster.
FBI officials also admitted last week that the agency failed to properly forward a tip about Cruz wanting to kill people to agents in Miami, prompting Gov. Rick Scott to call for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray. The FBI is investigating the incident.
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