The death of his mother may have sent the Florida mass shooting suspect over the edge, according to his family.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, and his younger brother Zachary were adopted by Roger and Lynda Cruz when they were infants.
Roger passed away from a heart attack when Nikolas was 9, leaving Lynda to care for the growing boys by herself.
Lynda, 68, was healthy but checked into a clinic in October before being rushed to the hospital.
Her cousin Kathie Blaine told ABC News that Lynda died on Nov. 1 from pneumonia.
After the death of Lynda, Nikolas Cruz moved in with the family of a classmate.
An attorney for the family said that Cruz had become “depressed” following his mother’s death, although he had been going to therapy sessions to try to deal with the grief.
The family is shocked at what happened.
“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,” the attorney, Jim Lewis, told the Sun-Sentinel. “He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”
The family knew Cruz had an AR-15-style assault weapon but insisted that it be kept locked away in a safe.
However, people who lived near Lynda and Roger Cruz were not as surprised.
They described incidents over the years, such as stealing the neighbor’s mail, shooting squirrels with pellet guns, and picking fights with other children.
One neighbor even caught him peeking into her bedroom window.
“Just about everybody on this part of the street had a run-in with him. He was always getting into trouble, that kid,” longtime neighbor Malcolm Roxburgh told The Washington Post. “He was not right in the head.”
Former classmates also said that Cruz loved guns and knives, with one describing him as a “psycho.” He made numerous posts on Instagram holding weapons, and made a threat against the school at least once.
“About a year ago I saw him upset in the morning,” student Brent Black told ABC News. “And I was like, ‘yo what’s wrong with you?’ And he was like ‘umm, don’t know.’ And I was like ‘what’s up with you?’ He’s like ‘I swear to God I’ll shoot up this school.’ And then I was like ‘watch what you’re saying around me,’ and then I just left him after that. He came up to me later on the day and apologized for what he said.”
Even before his mother’s death, he was expelled from school for disciplinary problems while “many of his acquaintances had cut ties in part because of his unnerving Instagram posts,” according to The Post.
There are signs that Cruz was bullied at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, where he attended before his expulsion, the attorney Lewis told CNN.
The family that was letting Cruz stay with them submitted to a home search and is cooperating fully with police.
“We were down there late talking to them, answering all the police questions, showing them phones. They opened their house up. … This family and the son have cooperated with law enforcement every which way they can,” Lewis said. “As the mother told me, if they had any inkling … that this kid was capable of something like this, they never would’ve brought him into their home.”