Neighbors, teachers describe Parkland gunman as "loner" who showed off guns on YouTube

"I'm going to be a professional school shooter," the teenage suspect, Nikolas Cruz, allegedly said on YouTube

Published February 15, 2018 1:49PM (EST)

People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Getty/Joe Raedle)
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Getty/Joe Raedle)

President Trump did not mention guns in a Thursday morning address to the nation about Wednesday's mass shooting in Florida, which left 17 dead and 14 others wounded, five with life-threatening injuries. Trump blamed mental illness for the worst high school shooting in U.S. history and said his administration is "committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

Earlier today, officials announced the teen gunman accused of opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle at his former high school in Parkland, Florida has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Authorities said the suspect, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was believed to have been armed with multiple magazines and an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle. Cruz may appear in court Thursday.

Officials said Cruz "concealed himself in the crowd" with hundreds of students fleeing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the Wednesday afternoon massacre. Cruz was arrested in nearby Coral Springs.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, in a press conference Thursday, said it is unclear if Cruz had any other other weapons. All of the victims' families have been notified, Israel said.

The gunman had recently been expelled from Douglas for disciplinary reasons and enrolled elsewhere in the district, Broward County school superintendent, Robert Runchie, told reporters. The gunman took an Uber to the Douglas campus before opening fire, Runchie said.

Sheriff Israel said investigators were reviewing social media postings that he described as "very disturbing." In September, a YouTube user named "Nikolas Cruz" left a comment on a video stating, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter," BuzzFeed reported. The video's creator alerted both the FBI and YouTube.

Classmates, relatives and neighbors have described Cruz as mentally disturbed and a troubled "loner" who often talked about guns and showed off his weapons on his social media accounts. Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, told the Miami Herald that the young man had previously been identified as a potential threat to other students.

Melissa Falkowski, an English and journalism teacher at Douglas, said in an interview with MSNBC that in the past, when school officials have been made aware of threats on social media, "they take precautions, and they investigate and take the precautions at school to make sure nothing happens." She said she didn’t know Cruz.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said Thursday he will speak to state leaders about making sure "individuals with mental illness do not touch a gun." When asked about Florida's gun laws later in the press conference, Scott said he is focusing on mental health, education spending and making sure people with mental illness don't have access to guns.

This morning, President Trump said on Twitter that there were "many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed" and that his classmates and neighbors should have reported him to authorities.

Trump's words about the massacre came in a thread, a Twitter feature that allows users to string together related messages, designed to make a statement that can't be expressed in a single tweet. The president's first tweet in the series, about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), does not seem to be related to his later thoughts, though.

In that morning tweetstorm, Trump initially blasted Democrats for the deadlock on reaching an agreement on DACA. He wrote, "Negotiations on DACA have begun. Republicans want to make a deal and Democrats say they want to make a deal. Wouldn’t it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle. This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th."

By Shira Tarlo

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