Cruz revealed gory fantasies to his therapists years before the Parkland massacre
By Carol Marbin Miller And Kyra Gurney
March 09, 2018 07:24 PM
Nearly four years before school shooter Nikolas Cruz gunned down 17 students and educators at a Parkland high school, he confided in a therapist that he saw himself in a dream drenched in human blood.
A May 3, 2014, notation in a Broward County schools psychiatric file said Cruz “reported [a dream] last week of him killing people and covered in blood. He smiled and told the therapist that sometimes he says things for shock value.”
After Cruz’s disclosure to his therapist at the alternative Cross Creek School, administrators developed a “safety plan” to ensure the welfare of Cruz and others while the teen was on summer vacation. The plan included provisions for removing “all sharp objects from the home” and encouraging the youth to “verbalize what the problem is.”
If talking about “the problem” was seen as a solution to Cruz’s volatile behavior — and, in the short term, it may have been — it did not last. Portions of his psychiatric file, obtained by the Miami Herald on Friday, show a young man whose mental health exhibited frequent and extreme swings. His attitude would brighten for weeks at a time, then descend again into paranoia and anger.
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That pent-up rage exploded on Valentine’s Day when Cruz took an Uber to his former high school in Parkland and walked onto campus carrying a bag with a semiautomatic rifle and magazines of ammunition. He went on a six-minute rampage, shooting into locked classrooms and through windows and walls and blasting people in the hallways. He killed 17 people, 14 of them students.
Then, wearing an old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Junior ROTC polo shirt, he fled the building along with panic-stricken students and escaped the school before police entered. He was caught while walking on the street.
Cruz was formally charged this week with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. He has already confessed to police and this week withdrew a not-guilty plea. The legal move underlines that his attorneys at the Broward County Public Defender’s Office hope to negotiate for a plea of guilt in exchange for a life sentence. Cruz, who was ordered held without bond Friday on the additional attempted murder counts, now faces the death penalty.
Confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears before a Broward County judge Friday, March 9, 2018. He has been indicted on charges of fatally shooting 17 people and attempting to kill 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High last month. The judge denied bond for a second time. Courtesy: Sun-Sentinel
The shooting in Parkland has set off a renewed gun control movement and led students at the school to call for a nationwide protest on March 24 to call for stronger gun measures. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed new legislation Friday restricting some access to rifles and allowing police to strip people with mental illness of the ability to own a gun. Nationally, members of Congress have filed gun legislation.
The rage and obsession with violence documented by Cruz’s therapists during nearly two years of interactions when he was 15 to 17 years old continued through his school career: Again and again, authorities were warned about the teen’s explosive tendencies and lack of impulse control. Again and again, authorities ignored the warnings.
In addition to the troubling behavior Cruz exhibited at the schools he attended — including an incident in which the teen reportedly brought a backpack with bullets to class — law enforcement officers were also alerted that Cruz might be dangerous.
The FBI failed to act on two tips about Cruz, one of which involved Cruz posting online that he planned to become a “professional school shooter.” The Broward Sheriff’s Office was also warned about the teen, and had received a report that he “planned to shoot up the school.”
Cruz alternated between periods of good behavior and periods of paranoia during which he acted out at school and at home, making fun of his peers, cursing at school staff and making threats, according to notes from his time at Cross Creek. The records obtained by the Herald documented weekly therapy sessions between February 2014 and December of 2015.