I will forever be haunted by the child’s voice on the phone “My name is Nicolas Cruz. My mother died recently and I don’t know what to do.”
Nicolas Cruz, the shooter at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, is a teenager and, until recently, a student himself at the 3000-student high school. Since his Valentine’s Day Massacre which claimed 17 lives, much has been published about the 19-year old’s troubled life. Arrested a short time after the attack by local police, Cruz faces 17 counts of premeditated murder. The prosecutor is calling for the death penalty. Cruz has indicated he’ll plead guilty if the death penalty is taken off the table.
Seeing Nicolas Cruz as he’s brought into court, I am taken by how thin, deflated he looks. Caved chest, head hanging low as possible, he shuffles to the defense table with shackled waist, ankles and wrists. He is a shell of a teenager, traumatized, dejected, unable to look up or respond to anything around him.
Politicians are quick to cast blame on the system for not stopping a “sicko” from an “act of pure evil.” Although law enforcement, social services and/or other emergency agencies had (supposedly) been alerted some 39 times in the last two years that Cruz was a danger to himself and others, he was allowed to accumulate 10 weapons of varying types and calibers including the AR-15 assault rifle.
The weapon of choice among ardent 2nd Amenders & the National Rifle Association, the semi-automatic AR-15 was used in the mass murders at Pulse Nightclub, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, the Las Vegas outdoor concert, the Sutherland, TX church, and Sandy Hook Elementary School 5 years ago. In each case, the weapon and high-velocity ammunition were obtained legally.
Nicolas Cruz is the poster child of the lone wolf who commits mass shootings in America. Unable to buy a handgun until age 21, Cruz needed to be just 18 years old to purchase his AR-15 and train on a youth gun range funded in part with a grant from the NRA. Disaffected, disassociated, socially inept, an outlier who never fit in, he was that kid who can never be normal.
As Cruz drifted farther from normalcy, he found kindred spirits, an accepting family of some very fine people – skinheads, white nationalists, Anglo-Americans, NeoNazis. Indeed, Cruz allegedly scratched swastikas onto the metal ammo clips he left behind signifying his intent and purpose.
The argument is made that millions of gun owners have tough lives but they don’t shoot up schools. Why did Nicolas Cruz fall off the edge into an orgy of blood and violence against his own peers?
His mother died suddenly just months before from a case of the flu. There were only 4 people at her funeral – himself, his brother and two former neighbors. The family of a classmate invited Nicolas to live with them but it’s clear the loss of his mother was so significant that tragedy of some kind was inevitable.