Months before a Valentine’s Day attack that left 17 dead at a Florida high school, suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz trespassed on campus grounds and mingled with students, according to newly released witness statements.
Computer science teacher Sandra Rennie told a detective that she saw Cruz wearing a hoodie and backpack on the first day of classes at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in August 2017, South Florida’s Sun Sentinel reported.
Cruz had been forced out of the school a year before.
“I was like, ‘Oh, Nik, you’re back,’ and he’s like: ‘Yeah I’m back,’ and I was like, OK, well good to have you back,” Rennie said.
Rennie said she notified school authorities and Cruz was subsequently escorted off the grounds.
She recalled a number of interactions with Cruz, including a time when he showed her images of disfigured people he found amusing.
He got upset, Rennie recounted, when a firewall in a computer class prevented him from accessing information online about different types of guns.
She told of having taught Cruz in an engineering class, where he “didn’t make a lot of eye contact, kept his head down a lot,” and was quiet. He received “Fs” in the class, Rennie said, regarding his academic performance.
“Every, every semester he did, he did nothing, and if he did do something he didn’t do enough to follow through and finish any assignment,” Rennie recounted, according to the report. She said that for the most part, he appeared disinterested in schoolwork.
Rennie said he once destroyed a class project consisting of bridges made out of toothpicks and Popsicle sticks so others wouldn’t get a better grade, according to the Sun Sentinel report.
Prosecutors on Friday released a batch of new witness statements that shed new light on the suspected gunman behind one of America’s worst mass shootings.
What Cruz Said
In an August 2017 Instagram post, Cruz sent disturbing messages to another male student over a girl, and in September 2016 picked a fight with him.
“I will kill you!!!!! I am going to shoot you dead,” read a transcript of one his diatribes.
The assistant principal reportedly circulated an email sometime after the fight, telling teachers Cruz was not allowed to carry a backpack.
Rennie said that the school later tried to get Cruz transferred to Cross Creek, a school for children with behavioral disorders.
Cruz fought against the transfer.
“He did not want to leave Stoneman. Did not want to go. He was so, he was so mad. He did not want to go,” she said, according to the report.
He was kicked out of Stoneman Douglas in February 2017.
A year later Cruz returned to the Parkland, Florida, school armed with an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 students and staff members and injured another 17, according to authorities. A security guard thought he was carrying a duffel bag but did not confront him, according to the statements.
Cruz’s Dense Team
Cruz has been charged with committing 17 first-degree murders, and 17 counts of attempted murder.
He made an appearance in a Florida court on Sept. 26, as his defense team pushed to interview hundreds of secondary witnesses, part of an effort to spare him the death penalty.
His lawyers have said he is willing to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, but prosecutors reject that and insist he should be executed.