PARKLAND — In a scene that is becoming all too common around the U.S., Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was rocked Wednesday by a mass shooting that left 17 dead, over a dozen more injured and a community in shock.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been accused of the crime and was taken into police custody shortly thereafter. He’s been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Unlike some recent shootings, this one didn’t come out of left field. Cruz was recently orphaned, plainly troubled, and had not only been expelled from the school that he eventually attacked, but also bragged online that he was “going to be a professional school shooter.”
Additionally, Cruz was receiving care at a mental health clinic for a time, though he hadn’t visited in over a year at the time of the shooting.
Students who knew Cruz were least of all shocked at the path the troubled teen chose. He was known for fighting, killing animals and even selling knives from a lunchbox.
“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” 17-year-old Victoria Olvera said of Cruz’s shooting.
Another 17-year-old, Matthew Walker, agreed that all of his classmates “knew it was going to be him.”
Joshua Charo, 16, weighed in: “I can’t say I was shocked. From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this. He used to tell me he would shoot rats with his BB gun and he wanted this kind of gun, and how he liked to always shoot for practice.”
School administration was more removed and apparently less tuned-in to the potential of a continued threat from the expelled student.
“Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there,” said School Superintendent Robert Runcie. “I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn’t have any warnings. There weren’t any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made.”
Undoubtedly, there will be inquiries into why the FBI or school officials did not do more, since both were aware of Cruz’s extreme statements and behavior.
President Donald Trump addressed the shooting on Twitter, unsurprisingly focusing his comments solely on mental health concerns while disregarding the “gun control” elephant in the room.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” the president tweeted. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
The orphaned Cruz—whose father died years prior and whose mother, Lynda Cruz, died in November of pneumonia—had moved into a friend’s family’s mobile home in northwest Broward County. He kept his AR-15 assault rifle there, in a cabinet he could access. Cruz reportedly bought the rifle legally and passed his background check.
It’s hard to conclude that gun control is all that it should be when the background checks used to authorize gun purchases fail to arrive at the conclusions that each peer in regular contact with Cruz was able to come to easily.
Cruz was heavily-equipped when he carried out the shooting, carrying with him a gas mask, extra ammo, smoke grenades and a semi-automatic weapon. The shooting now ranks as the third-deadliest of its kind in U.S. history, following only the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting in December of 2012 and the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
If the slaying of 6- and 7-year-olds at Newtown was unable to make a significant difference in gun control measures, it’s difficult to imagine what it would take to bring about lasting change. The dialogue sparked by Wednesday’s tragic attack is only just beginning, and the ultimate response from federal and local authorities remains to be seen.
Florida Governor Rick Scott seemed unwilling to tackle the issue in a direct way at this time.
“There’s a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding that we make sure that people are safe,” he said.
“Gun control” was noticeably absent from the governor’s comments, just as it was with those of the president.
Whatever steps end up being taken to make people safer, South Florida today faces the beginning of its healing process