The alleged shooter in a massacre at a Florida high school was known to school officials after having been permanently kicked off of campus, it was reported on Wednesday. Nikolas Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before he allegedly returned to that campus on Wednesday and murdered at least 17 people, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.
Cruz was taken into custody after the shooting and investigators were examining his social media, Israel added.
“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.
Seventeen-year-old Stoneman Douglas junior Matthew Walker told ABC News that Cruz was known to show off knives and guns on his social media accounts. “Everything he posts [on social media] is about weapons,” Walker said. “It’s sick.”
Heavy.com pointed to a since deleted Instagram account of a Nikolas Cruz that heavily featured knives, guns, ammunition, and general shooting imagery. One post also appeared to include an anti-Muslim slur.
Local media, meanwhile, reported accounts of former classmates and teachers who described Cruz as someone who had an obsession with guns and about whom faculty had been warned.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” math teacher Jim Gard, who said he had previously had Cruz as a student, told the Miami Herald. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”*
Jillian Davis, a 19-year-old former classmate of Cruz, told the Treasure Coast Newspapers that she had been in a junior ROTC class with Cruz and that he would joke about guns and had been bullied.*
“I definitely heard all of those signs—he’d talk about guns, he’d talk about not needing any gun control,” Davis said.
She also said he would joke about mass killings and suicide. “It was primarily jokes about guns,” Davis added.
Another former JROTC classmate also said he talked about guns a great deal.
“He was off,” Giovonni Watford told BuzzFeed. “He was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face.”
Watford also told BuzzFeed that Cruz complained about bullying at school.
The Herald reported that another student, Nicholas Coke, said Cruz had left the school months before and had kicked out a glass window when they were in middle school.
“He had a lot of problems in middle school,” Coke said.
Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie said that Cruz was “currently enrolled in Broward County Schools” apparently at another school, though he said he couldn’t offer more information about Cruz because of privacy concerns.
Sen. Bill Nelson told CNN that Cruz allegedly “wore a gas mask and he had smoke grenades,” according to his conversations with law enforcement officials.
“He went and he set off the fire alarm so that the kids would come pouring out of the classroom into the hall. And there the carnage began,” Nelson said. “[There was] enormous preparation …. [he used] an AR-15.”
Israel confirmed that Cruz allegedly used an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon and “countless magazines.”
An AR-15 was also used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, which left 27 killed, including 20 children between 6 and 7 years old. It was also used in the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Aurora, Colorado, that each left one dozen or more people dead.
The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which barred the manufacturing of such semi-automatic firearms, expired in 2004 and was not renewed at the time by a Republican Congress.
Correction, Feb. 15, 2018: This post originally misidentified the Miami Herald as the Miami Herald Tribune and Treasure Coast Newspapers as the Treasure Coast Palm Beach Post.