FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A judge has decided to release the Department of Children and Families records involving Nikolas Cruz, who is accused of killing 17 people in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The judge made the decision to release the information, Monday. The judge also said they will redact the names of the DCF workers involved but not their titles.
“If there are shortcomings in DCF, the public has a right to know,” the judge said.
DCF said they wanted the records released, and they believed the public should see them. The judge ultimately agreed with them, saying, “[The] public has a right to know whether this tragedy could have been prevented. [The] public has a right to know the information and evaluate the agencies that interacted with Nikolas Cruz.”
The DCF investigation started in September 2016 after the state got a call to look into allegations that Cruz was being victimized by his mother.
In the DCF report, an investigator wrote, “Mr. Cruz was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms. Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz has stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for. A year ago, Mr. Cruz had hate signs on a book bag, stating ‘I hate [expletive].'”
Cruz’s mother Lynda, who passed away a year later, told an investigator at the time that her son “doesn’t have a gun,” but does have ”an air gun, and that was taken away from him” when he “didn’t follow house rules about only shooting it within the backyard at the targets.”
A video taken by a neighbor a year ago shows a shirtless Cruz firing what appears to be a BB gun in a backyard.
According to the report, a mobile crisis unit was called out to his school at the request of counselors, but Cruz was found “stable enough not to be hospitalized,” and it was “determined that he was not at risk to harm himself or others.”
“The reports themselves classified Nikolas Cruz as a vulnerable adult due to mental illness,” said the judge.
Despite Cruz’s behavior, the report concluded the “final level of risk is low.” DCF closed their investigation less than a month after it began.
About three months after the DCF investigation closed, Cruz legally purchased an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle — the gun he’s charged with using in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
When asked if DCF let Cruz slip through the cracks, a spokeswoman responded, “No, DCF did not drop the ball. We had an investigation that took place in 2016. That’s well before this tragedy occurred.”
In a statement, DCF secretary Mike Carroll said in part, “Cruz was receiving mental health services before, during and after our investigation was closed. He was living with his mother and attending school.”
The state added that Cruz, as an adult, refused to cooperate with the investigation himself. On a DCF privacy form, which accompanied the released report, Nikolas Cruz “declined to sign” his name.
The Snead family, who took Cruz in after his mother died, said they never thought he was violent.
“He told us he was depressed. We knew he was depressed,” said James Snead. “He’s just trying to fit in. He just didn’t know what to say or when to say it or how to say it, you know, so he’d ask a lot of questions. He’d apologize a lot. If we told him to do something, if he needed to clean up something after himself or something, he’d apologize and said he was sorry.”
According to CNN, Cruz was able to buy 10 rifles over the last year.
A former friend of Cruz, Ariana Lopez, spoke on Good Morning America.
“He would tell me about his mom and his brother,” said Lopez.
She said their friendship began normally, but his behavior soon turned troubling.
“He used to sell knives out of his lunchbox, which I thought was insane because you can’t have knives — this is a school,” said Lopez. “He would talk about how he would sympathize with Syrian terrorists and how people who opposed them should be killed. He posted pictures of like 15 or more firearms just on his bed.”
Cruz appeared in court Monday afternoon, as his defense attorneys asked a judge to keep information about their meetings with him in a jail confidential. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she was in favor of openness whenever possible.
During his court appearance, Cruz kept his head down and did not appear to make eye contact with the judge or others in the courtroom. However, he responded briefly to someone on the defense team.
Monday’s court appearance was Cruz’s second time in front of a judge. Last week, he went before a bond court judge and was denied bond.
Cruz’s attorneys said their client will plead guilty immediately if the death penalty is taken off the table. However, the state attorney released a statement over the weekend which read, “This certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for. This was a highly calculated and premeditated murder of 17 people and the attempted murder of everyone in that school.”
“A long, drawn-out trial is not in the best interest of this community,” Cruz’s public defender said, adding that warning signs were missed and Cruz needed help for years but never got it.
Cruz is currently being held at the Broward County Jail.
No formal decision has been made on if the prosecution will pursue the death penalty.
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