Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooter described as troubled, gun-obsessed

PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - As authorities continue to investigate the shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday afternoon, a chilling portrait of the gunman began to emerge.

A student at the school said he knows the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

“He’s been a troubled kid, and he’s always had a certain amount of issues going on. He shot guns because he felt it gave him, I guess, an exhilarating feeling.”

The student went on to say Cruz had shown him pictures of guns on his phone.

“I stayed clear of him most of the time. My time in alternate school, I did not want to be with him at all because I didn’t want to cause any conflict with him, because of the impression he gave off,” said the student.

Court documents show that Cruz’s adoptive mother died in November from the flu and pneumonia, and his dad died a few years ago due to a heart attack, leaving Cruz without any close family.

The Snead family took him in, got him into a GED class and helped him get a job at a Dollar Tree store.

An attorney for the family said that the Sneads allowed Cruz to live with them for three months before the shooting.

“Starting about Thanksgiving he moved in here with his friend, and that mom and dad took him in,” said the Snead family’s attorney Jim Lewis.

Lewis said the Snead family had no clue that Cruz could or would do something like this.

“No clue that this kid was dangerous, OK?” said Lewis. “He had a firearm, and it was apparently locked in a cabinet here in the residence.”

7News obtained a 911 call log, which showed that BSO responded to numerous calls at Cruz’s home over the past several years. The calls included mental health issues, 911 hang-up calls, child-elderly abuse and domestic disturbance. It remains unknown who made the calls or who the calls were in reference to, but the calls did come from the house where Cruz was staying.

Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies roped off an area near the home in Parkland, Thursday morning, and brought a family member in for questioning.

The family said their son was later cleared following questioning by authorities.

Speaking with reporters, Wednesday evening, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the shooter appeared to be well prepared for the incident at the Parkland school.

“The shooter wore a gas mask, and he had smoke grenades,” said Nelson. “He went and set off the fire alarm, so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall. There, the carnage began.”

Chatter audio between deputies confirmed the shooter — who was charged on Thursday morning — wore a gas mask.

Investigators said, after opening fire near and inside the school, Cruz traveled off campus.

Cellphone video showed dozens of officers taking Cruz into custody about two miles from the school, in the Wyndham Lakes community in Coral Springs, just before 4 p.m.

Officials said he was compliant with officers and was arrested without incident.

A photo given to 7News Wednesday night shows Cruz on the ground in handcuffs, moments after he was apprehended. He is seen wearing a burgundy shirt with the school’s eagle mascot on the sleeve, possibly worn to try to blend in and go unnoticed before opening fire.

Another photo of Cruz posted on social media shows him holding up a gun while staring into the camera.

The chaotic scene left Wyndham Lakes residents in shock.

“I would never want to be close to anybody who would do something like this,” said resident Kelly Dalton. “It’s just terrible.”

“He could’ve jumped the lake and been in my yard,” said a man who wished to remain anonymous. “It was that close.”

7Skyforce hovered above Cruz, seen limping as officers put him in the back of a cruiser.

Pompano Beach Fire Rescue transported Cruz to Broward Health North to be treated for minor injuries. He was then escorted to BSO headquarters to be questioned.

7News Skyforce showed Cruz in shackles and a hospital gown as he was taken out of a cruiser and escorted into the building.

Investigators said Cruz was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas a few years ago.

“He was a former student of Douglas High School. He got expelled for disciplinary reasons, but I don’t know the specifics,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

Speaking on CNN, Cruz’s former teacher, Jim Gard, spoke about his former student.

“Some of the girls in my class — I guess he had some problems with some of the girls,” he said. “As far as my class goes, I remember an email or two from admin, but I can’t remember exactly what it said.”

An area resident who said he’s seen Cruz in his neighborhood described him as quiet.

“I work right down the road, so I’d see him sometimes walking, but that’s about it,” said Andrew Pomerantz. “He just kept to himself.”

As of 10 p.m., Cruz had spent nearly six hours at BSO headquarters being interrogated, as homicide detectives and FBI agents attempted to establish a motive for the mass shooting and ascertain how he acquired the gas mask, AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and other military equipment that he used during the shooting.

After the interrogation ended, Cruz was taken to the Broward County Jail.

The FBI has set up a tipline. Officials urged anyone with information about the shooter to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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