Just months before Nikolas Cruz killed 17 at his former high school in South Florida, the host family who had taken him in immediately after his mother’s death warned local law enforcement that the 19-year-old had “used a gun against people before” and “has put the gun to others’ heads in the past,” according to records obtained by CNN.
It’s the latest indication of how law enforcement encountered warning signs about Cruz’s violent behavior before he attacked students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
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CNN has obtained records from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office that detail deputies’ interactions with Cruz in the home where he lived for a few weeks in November, before he moved in with another family, the Sneads, and months before the massacre.
In November, Cruz’s mother died after being diagnosed with pneumonia. Lynda Cruz was a widow raising her two adopted teenage boys by herself in Broward County, according to acquaintances CNN interviewed. Without anyone to turn to after their mother’s death, Nikolas Cruz and his younger brother Zachary were both taken in by Rocxanne Deschamps, a former neighbor who had been close to the family.
The boys moved north into her mobile home in suburban Palm Beach County. That’s where, according to records, Cruz allegedly continued to have the same explosive, violent outbursts he had as a young boy living at his mother’s home.
Except now, those around him say, he had firearms.
On the day after Thanksgiving, Cruz was at work at a Dollar Tree store. Rocxanne Deschamps’ son, Rock, 22, called 911 to report that an “adopted 19-year-old son” had possibly hidden a “gun in the backyard,” according to a dispatcher’s notes. Rock Deschamps told law enforcement “there were no weapons allowed in the household,” the report said. It’s unclear from the record whether sheriff’s deputies conducted a search. The incident was classified as “domestic unfounded,” which means a deputy didn’t find proof to back up the claims.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was called again to the home four days later, when Rock said Cruz lashed out against the family that took him in, according to the Palm Beach deputy’s report and dispatcher notes. The deputy went to a local park and found Cruz, who explained that he had misplaced a photo of his recently deceased mother and, emotionally distraught, began punching the wall. Cruz lost control the same way he had several times in the past at his mother’s home in Parkland, Florida, when he had not taken his prescribed mood-altering medication, as CNN has previously reported based on Broward police documents.
Rock interrupted Cruz and a fight broke out between them, according to the documents. Cruz left the home, and Rocxanne Deschamps called 911. She warned the police dispatcher that Cruz said “he was going to get his gun and come back,” records show. She said Cruz had “bought a gun from Dick’s last week and is now going to pick it up.”
Rocxanne Deschamps told the dispatcher that Cruz had “bought tons of ammo” and “has used a gun against ppl before,” the notes said. “He has put the gun to others heads in the past.”
The Palm Beach sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene of the assault spoke to both young men, who “hugged and reconcile(d) their differences.” Cruz “said he was sorry for losing his temper,” the deputy wrote in his report. Rock Deschamps told the deputy that Cruz had been suffering significantly from the loss of his mother and that he didn’t want him to go to jail, only to leave the house until he calmed down. He signed a form saying he refused to prosecute.
Cruz left Rocxanne Deschamps’ home for good a short time later, according to her ex-fiancé Paul Gold, who was also a longtime former neighbor. While his younger brother Zachary remained at that home, Nik Cruz returned to Broward County to live with a friend, and stayed at the Pompano Beach home of James and Kimberly Snead. He took his guns with him, the Sneads said.
Gold, who lived next door to the Cruz family in Parkland for years, told CNN that he drove Nik Cruz to his mother’s funeral. The only people in attendance were the two sons, Gold, and Rocxanne Deschamps, he said.
“The boy was stoic. Not a tear. Not an emotion. I asked him if he was upset. He said: ‘I’m upset because nobody came, and nobody cares about my mother,’” Gold recalled.
“I told him that his mother was loved by many, many people and they just couldn’t make it, timing and whatnot. It was a complete lie. But I felt horrible. Here’s this poor kid, and his mother dies, and not a soul shows up,” Gold said.
Gold told CNN he knew nothing of Cruz’s guns. He now describes the teen as “a monster.”
The next time Palm Beach deputies visited the Deschamps home was on February 14, in the frantic hours after the school shooting. A deputy rushed Rock and his family out of the home, clearing the way for a bomb squad to arrive, according to a report.
In the wake of the Valentine’s Day mass shooting, there has been intense public scrutiny of why Cruz was not identified as an imminent threat despite his encounters with law enforcement. The FBI has acknowledged that it did not act on a specific tip about Cruz that warned about his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
Separately, the FBI was warned in September about a YouTube commenter named Nikolas Cruz, who wrote: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”
CNN’s Curt Devine contributed to this report.