Alleged shooter liked showing off his collection of firearms

Screenshots from an Instagram page said to belong to Nikolas Cruz show many photos of him with firearms.
Screenshots from an Instagram page said to belong to Nikolas Cruz show many photos of him with firearms.

PARKLAND (Florida) • The youth suspected of carrying out the shooting massacre at a Florida high school was a former student who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons, the authorities said.

Sheriff Scott Israel said Nikolas Cruz, 19, previously attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland but was expelled after getting into trouble. He was enrolled at another Broward County school, the officials said.

People described Cruz as a "troubled kid" who enjoyed showing off his firearms and bragging about killing animals, and whose mother would resort to calling the police.

"There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus," Mr Jim Gard, a maths teacher who taught Cruz for a semester in 2016, told the Miami Herald.

After the shooting on Wednesday, Mr Gard said several students told him that Cruz was taken with a girl at Stoneman Douglas "to the point of stalking her".

Student Chad Williams, 18, described Cruz as "kind of an outcast" who was known for unruly behaviour at school, including a penchant for pulling false fire alarms, and was "crazy about guns".

Ms Helen Pasciolla, who lives across from where the Cruz family resided in Parkland until about a year ago, said Cruz told her his family had to sell their house as they could no longer afford it. She said Cruz and his brother Zachary were both adopted, and their adoptive father died some years ago.

Ms Pasciolla said the boys' mother Lynda Cruz faced regular problems with them, and would resort to calling the police for help.

Mr Israel said the authorities did not yet know the motive for the killing, and were studying Cruz's social media pages, which he described as "very, very concerning".

Screenshots of an Instagram page said to belong to Cruz show many photos of a man holding firearms and ammunition used in a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

After Cruz left Stoneman Douglas, he took a job at a store. A person who answered the phone at the store on Wednesday said he was a cashier and well liked, adding: "He was a great guy."

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2018, with the headline 'Alleged shooter liked showing off his collection of firearms'. Print Edition | Subscribe