A new report shows that cops were called to Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s home more times than initially thought.
When the 19-year-old was apprehended after killing 17 in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two weeks ago, early reports showed that Broward County Sheriff’s deputies had been called to Cruz’s home 39 times in the last several years.
Sheriff Scott Israel later reduced that figure to 23, amongst increasing criticism that his office should have seen the numerous warning signs.
‘Since 2008, BSO responded to 23 incidents where previous contact was made with the killer or his family. STOP REPORTING 39; IT’S SIMPLY NOT TRUE,’ a statement from the sheriff’s office said on Saturday.
But according to new documents obtained by CNN, cops were actually called to the Cruz family home a total of 45 times in the last decade – before his adoptive mother died in November and he and his brother moved in with family friends.
At least 19 of the calls were related to Cruz while 25 were in connection to his younger brother Zachary. The final call was vague as to which boy it was related to.
The calls related to Cruz include reports of him fighting with his brother, cursing at his mother and even throwing her against a wall when she took away his Xbox. The severity of the calls gets worse over time, concluding in a neighbor, Joelle Guarino, calling officers in 2016 over a worrying Instagram post in which Cruz threatened to ‘shoot up a school’.
Guarino sat down for an interview with CNN to describe her years living along with the Cruz family.
She says she knew Cruz was a bad egg even when he was a baby, when she caught him hitting her son constantly with a plastic toy.
She said she was always bothered by Cruz’s behavior – particularly the way he wouldn’t look her directly in the eyes.
A few years after the hitting incident, she says Cruz locked himself in one of her rooms and destroyed a train set after he spilled soda on himself and the other kids told him it looked like he urinated.
His outbursts grew more and more violent over time.
When Cruz was 10, Guarino says he threw a rock at her son which hit him in the eye.
When she visited the Cruz home, she also noticed holes in the walls from where Cruz would get angry and punch the wall. Then she started noticing Cruz killing toads on her lawn and dissecting them.
But it was one incident in the eighth grade that led Guarino to order her kids to stay away from Cruz.
One day she said she noticed Cruz standing over her dog Max while he was convulsing and foaming at the mouth. Cruz had on a chilling expression, she said.
‘His face was excited that it was happening – with this wild satisfaction look,’ Guarino said. ‘As soon as he saw me his demeanor changed.’
After that, she told her sons to keep their distance from Cruz and to avoid making him angry.
Meanwhile, the situation at the Cruz family home only seemed to deteriorate, with Lynda regularly calling police to deal with her son.
Guarino says that anytime police would show up though, Lynda would change her story and say that Cruz hadn’t been violent and they would let him go.
‘Lynda always denied it. She would blame it on everyone else,’ Guarino said. ‘She would excuse him for everything.’
Despite her orders, Cruz continued to stay in contact with one of Guarino’s sons, sending him a text at one point saying he ‘got 12 kills today’ after going paint-balling. Guarino says that Cruz would use BB guns to shoot squirrels, birds and other small animals.
Guarino says she eventually decided to call 911 in 2016, when her son showed her some of Cruz’s Instagram posts, including one showing an AR-15-style assault rifle with a caption about how he couldn’t wait to turn 18 to buy one. In another post, he wrote about he wanted to ‘shoot up a school’.
But when Guarino called cops to report him, they said there was nothing they could do.
‘There is nothing I can do,’ she said the deputy told her. ‘Until he does something there is nothing I can do.’
Guarino was so afraid of Cruz getting a gun when he turned 18 that she was prepared to move her family out of the neighborhood before Cruz became a legal adult.
Luckily, just before he turned 18 last year, the Cruz family moved first.
The families fell out of contact then, with Lynda Cruz dying later that year from pneumonia. But as soon as news of the shooting broke, Guarino says she immediately knew who the shooter was.
‘I had no doubt he was going to do this,’ Guarino said. ‘My husband and I both knew that we would eventually see him one day on the news, wearing an orange jumpsuit being charged with murder.’