By KELLI KENNEDY, Associated Press
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) – Students and neighbors describe the suspect in the deadly rampage at a Florida high school as a troubled teenager who threatened and harassed peers, talked about killing animals, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media, and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said, but he insisted he didn’t know the specifics. Math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that before Wednesday’s fatal shooting of 17 people, Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat – Gard believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn’t be allowed on campus with a backpack.
“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard told the paper.
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. He’d been attending another school in Broward County since the expulsion, school officials said.
Cruz was an orphan — his mother, Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia Nov. 1 neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel.Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.
The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said.
Unhappy there, Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in northwest Broward. The family agreed, and Cruz moved in around Thanksgiving. According to lawyer Jim Lewis, who represents but did not identify the family, they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet and never saw him go to a shooting range with it. He did have the key, however.
Cruz passed a background check and legally purchased the assault weapon from a licensed dealer in February 2017, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation but not authorized to discuss it publicly told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The family is devastated and shocked, lawyer Lewis said. During the three months Cruz lived there, he was respectful and quiet but…