Nikolas Cruz, 19, stood silent under harsh courtroom lighting on Wednesday. His hands and feet were shackled. He was wearing the orange prison jumpsuit. Footage shows his blue eyes cast near-constantly downward. The crown of his brown hair facing the cameras.
He was in court facing a 34-count indictment over allegations he took an Uber to his former high school in Florida on February 14, calmly entered the school, and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.
He allegedly killed 17 in total, including students and teachers, and injured several more.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. And, though defence lawyers say he will plead ‘guilty’ if execution is taken off the table, CBS News reports, the Broward County State Attorney is not backing down.
Now, those of us who watched the shooting and its aftermath in astounded horror, are afforded a glimpse inside the mind of the 19-year-old teen who was allegedly angry enough, hateful enough, to inflict so much pain.
The woman who took Cruz and his brother in when their mother died has spoken about Cruz’ long-standing fascination with firearms; his immense depression; and an incident in which he put a gun to his mother’s head.
At a news conference in New York City on Tuesday, Roxanne Deschamps spoke publicly about what happened when Cruz lived with her and her family in their home near Lantana, Florida for almost a month in 2016, Sun Sentinel reports.
During his stay, Deschamps called the police three times. Once when she found the receipt of a gun purchase; then, when she found Cruz digging a hole in the backyard, attempting to bury a gun box; and finally, when her own son caught Cruz punching holes in the wall and Cruz turned on him, too.
“I told them about the warning signs,” Deschamps said. “I was very concerned that the gun, which he had purchased, might be brought into my house or that he might get the gun and use it to harm himself or others. Law enforcement said that nothing could be done.”
Woman Who Took In Nikolas Cruz Before Parkland Shooting Feared His Interest In Guns https://t.co/XF1c6v0icC
— NPR (@NPR) March 21, 2018
Deschamps had been neighbours and friends with Lynda Cruz – mother to Nikolas and his brother Zachary. And, in a fateful conversation, Lynda made Deschamps promise to look after the boys if anything should happen to her.
In 2016, she fell ill to pneumonia and was hospitalised.
“Lynda didn’t have much longer to live so I immediately rushed to the hospital and told her that I would keep my word and take care of her sons,” Deschamps told the press conference, Sun Sentinel reports.
“The boys were there and able to say their goodbyes to their mother and they were all crying. Within five minutes, Lynda passed away.”
She knew of Cruz’ obsession with guns prior to his mother’s death, Deschamps said. But, when she took the boys in, she told the teen he was not permitted to bring his collection of firearms into her home.
“While I was [at his mother’s house for a visit] I saw guns on the floor in the closet of Nikolas’ room,” she told the Sun Sentinel.
“The guns that I observed were not hunting guns. They looked like army guns. I saw at least five of them. The guns looked like assault weapons. They were very large. I also saw a large box of bullets. I saw Nikolas playing with and cleaning the guns.”
Ultimately, it came down to her home or his guns, Deschamps said. She offered Cruz an ultimatum… he chose the guns and moved out.
LISTEN: Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester examine the long-term fall out of the Florida School shooting. Post continues below.
After the brothers went to live with another family, Deschamps still kept in touch. Cruz messaged her the day before the shooting, in fact, asking about her pets.
Facing the news conference yesterday, Deschamps said she “begged” Cruz to seek therapy for his depression, and that she tried her very best to warn law enforcement.
“I did everything I could to warn law enforcement about what could happen,” she said, holding back tears.
“I wanted to protect, not only my own children, but also anyone else who might be at risk of being harmed. I also wanted to protect Nikolas from himself. Unfortunately, although I did everything I could, I was not able to stop this tragedy from taking place.”