The man suspected of opening fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, was described by a former classmate as someone who complained about bullying and “talked about guns a lot” and was expelled for disciplinary problems.
Officials confirmed that the suspect is Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting took place, for disciplinary reasons.
Around 2:30 p.m, Cruz allegedly opened fire at the south Florida high school, which has about 2,900 students, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said. At least 17 people, a “mixture” of students and teachers, are dead, Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Wednesday evening.
Cruz was found and taken into custody without incident away from the campus.
“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.
The 19-year-old had “countless magazines” and one AR-15 rifle, the sheriff added, but could not confirm if he had any other weapons.
Giovonni Watford told BuzzFeed News he was in the same Junior ROTC program as Cruz while at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and described his former classmate as “a sketchy kid” who students “suspected of doing something like this.”
“He was off,” the 17-year-old said. “He was super stressed out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face.”
Cruz also complained often about bullying on campus and “had beef with one kid.”
Another student told a local TV station that “everyone predicted it” and “threw jokes around like that, saying that he’s the one to shoot up the school,” explaining that Cruz knew the layout of the campus.
“He was on the third floor, he knows the school layout. He knows where everyone would be at. He’s been in fire drills, he’s prepared for this stuff,” the teen continued.
Multiple students have also said that there was a fire alarm minutes before the shooting started. Teens on Snapchat also shared footage of themselves walking out of their classrooms for the drill.
Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, told the Herald that Cruz himself had been identified as a potential threat to his peers.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard said. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Watford’s older brother, Mike, who also attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High before graduating in 2016, told BuzzFeed News that Cruz often declared “how tired he was of everyone picking on him and the staff doing nothing about it.”
“Something definitely pushed him,” Mike Watford said.
During the press conference, Israel repeatedly stressed the importance of flagging a person’s concerning behavior, especially on social media.
“If anybody has any indicator that someone’s going through a behavioral change, on social media if there are disturbing photos, perhaps bombs or firearms or just videos or pictures that are just not right, please make sure law enforcement knows about it,” he said.