Who Is the Florida Shooter? Nikolas Cruz Will Appear Before a Judge Thursday

Here's what information police have released so far.

NBC News

Early Thursday morning, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for a school shooting he allegedly committed on Wednesday in Broward County, Florida.

Cruz was had been expelled for disciplinary reasons from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he carried out the shooting.

On Thursday, authorities updated on the public on their investigation of the case.

“There are some bodies that are still in the school,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel on Thursday. “Right now the focus of the FBI and the Broward Sheriff’s Office is on the successful prosecution of this killer and we’re not going to leave any stone unturned. We want to go fast but we’re not going to rush it.”

Nikolas Cruz’s Mug Shot, Released Thursday:

Nikolas Cruz' arrest photo, or mug shot.

“All the families have been notified,” Israel told reporters. Cruz will appear before a judge at 2 p.m. Eastern Thursday at the Broward County Courthouse.

At around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, he returned to his former school, pulled a fire alarm, and then opened fire using a semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle that he owned, firing on students pouring into the hallways. He was able to blend into the crowd of fleeing students and briefly escape.

He was apprehended later that afternoon in the neighboring town of Coral Springs.

Adopted, and Recently Orphaned

Cruz and his brother were adopted as an infant by an older couple, Lynda Cruz and her husband. His adoptive father died when he was a child, and his mother died on November 1, at 68, when she checked into a hospital for what she believed to be the flu but which turned into pneumonia.

“I know she had been having some issues with them, especially the older one. He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. [He] did have some kind of emotional problems or difficulties,” Barbara Kumbatovich, a family member of Lynda Cruz, told the Sun Sentinel. “[Lynda] kept a really close handle on both boys. They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do like not coming home on time, maybe being disrespectful.”

Students leaving the high school after the school shooting. 


After Lynda’s death, the boys went to live with a family friend in Palm Beach County, but were unhappy. Nikolas then asked to move in with a friend from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and moved in after Thanksgiving. He was given his own room, encouraged to take adult education classes, and started working at a Dollar Store.

Jim lewis, an attorney speaking on behalf of the family that was fostering Cruz, said, “The family is devastated, they didn’t see this coming. They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished. He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”

“A Little Off”

Post-crime scene interviews with friends, family, and acquaintances often express shock at the disturbed persona that they did not recognize in real life, but in the case of Nikolas Cruz, it seems like the signs were there — at least to his classmates.

Cruz had been enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and displayed an obsession with guns — both online and on his since-deleted Instagram account.


Multiple students that interacted with Cruz at his old school described him as “a little off,” with one student, 16-year-old Emily Sucher, saying that he would “smile weirdly, make weird comments.”

Other students elucidated those weird comments, with one teen who declined to give his name explaining to news station WSVN: “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. He showed me [his guns] personally through his phone.”

Neighbors, like Shelby Speno and Malcolm and Christine Roxbury, described a history of disturbing behavior by Cruz to the Sun Sentinel, from shooting at one neighbors’ chickens, trying to attack another neighbor’s pet pigs with his dogs, to trying to steal a bike from an open garage.

While a specific motive for Cruz’s shooting has not been found, this is the eighteenth school shooting since the beginning of 2018.

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