- Nikolas Cruz, the Florida shooting suspect, reportedly had “dozens” of run-ins with police growing up.
- His neighbours said Cruz was always getting into trouble and scaring other children.
- He once egged a neighbour’s car and shot at another neighbour’s chickens with a pellet gun, one neighbour told The Miami Herald.
- Cruz was denied bond on Thursday and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The Florida high school shooting suspect had a long history of run-ins with law enforcement before he allegedly killed 17 in Wednesday’s massacre, his neighbours said.
Police were called to 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz’s home “dozens” of times as he was growing up, his former neighbour Rhonda Roxburgh told The Miami Herald.
Cruz now faces 17 counts of premeditated murder and was denied bond in a court hearing on Thursday.
But the Broward Sheriff’s Office already “knew there was a problem” with Cruz long before he set foot in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with his legally purchased AR-15, Roxburgh said.
Children appeared to fear Cruz and would stand far apart from him at the bus stop near their homes, she told the paper. He also used to sit on the curb alone because “no one wanted to be around him.”
“That child had an extremely cold stare,” Roxburgh added. “He was going to hurt somebody. I just didn’t know it would be this bad.”
Another neighbour, Shelby Speno, said Cruz was a “creepy” child whose behaviour grew worse as he aged. He once egged her family’s car and shot at her neighbour’s chickens with a pellet gun, she told the Herald.
Speno said Cruz’s adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, was always “very apologetic” whenever he caused trouble.
“I think she had her hands full,” Speno said.
‘It doesn’t shock me that it was him’
In fact, Lynda Cruz was often the one who made the 911 calls to report Cruz, another neighbour said.
Police would often visit the home and try to talk sense into Nikolas Cruz and his brother Zachary, Helen Pasciolla told The New York Times.
“I think she wanted to scare them a little bit,” she said. “Nikolas has behavioural problems, I think, but I never thought he would be violent.”
Cruz’s former classmates and teachers told media in the hours after the massacre that he had a history of behavioural problems and was expelled from the high school for disciplinary reasons.
One student told local Fox affiliate WSVN that Cruz was a “troubled kid” who was known to flaunt photos of his guns on his phone.
“It surprises me the fact that this is going on today, but it doesn’t shock me that it was him,” the student said. “It was an eye-opener.”
A leader of a white nationalist militia claimed on Thursday that Cruz was a member and attended paramilitary drills with the group.
The FBI also looked into a threat that a YouTube user with the same name made in September. The user commented on a video, writing, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” prompting the owner of the video to email a screenshot of the comment to authorities.
FBI special agent Robert Laskey told media on Thursday that the FBI reviewed the comment, but wasn’t able to confirm whether the account belonged to Cruz.