Many things had to go wrong, and for a long time.
At 2:19pm EST on Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz got out of his Uber and entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. At 2:21 pm, he started shooting people on the school grounds, ultimately killing 17.
For that to happen, many things had to go wrong, and for a long time. This is a timeline of events shared by the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) that shows concerns about Cruz had been aired more than two years before the incident.
Feb. 5, 2016
The BSO received “third hand information received by neighbor’s son that Nikolas Cruz planned to shoot up the school.” The caller, who remained anonymous, warned the BSO of an Instagram post by Nikolas Cruz in which he allegedly posed with guns and threatened to shoot up his school. The BSO determined that Cruz “possessed knives and a 88 gun,” and informed Scot Peterson, an officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Sept. 28, 2016
A “peer counselor” of Cruz’s reported that Cruz may have attempted suicide by gasoline ingestion, was cutting himself, and wanted to buy hunting guns. Cruz was also reported as owning hate-related symbols.
A behavioral health therapist said Cruz didn’t present immediate risk to himself and others, and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) asserted that Cruz was mentally stable. According to the Miami Herald Tribune, Cruz’s mother Lynda said that day that her son “wrote “’hate signs’ on his book bag and had recently talked of buying firearms.”
Sept. 24, 2017
YouTube user “nikolas cruz” commented on a video with his intention to become a “professional school shooter.” Accordingo to the Miami Herald, “the comment is reported to the FBI in Mississippi, which fails to make the connection to Cruz in South Florida.”
Nov. 1, 2017
After Lynda Cruz’s death, Katherine Blaine, her cousin, called the police to alert them that Nikolas owned files, and asked that the BSO come collect them. A “close family friend” ended up taking the firearms, according to BSO.
Nov. 29, 2017
The woman who took Cruz in after his mother’s death called the BSO to say he was fighting with her 22-year-old son, and shared worrisome details. “(Cruz) bought a gun from Dick’s last week and is now going to pick it up,” the woman said, adding that he “bought tons of ammo,” and had “used a gun against (people) before” and “put the gun to others’ heads in the past.” According to the police report, Cruz apologized for losing his temper, and the family didn’t want him arrested.
Nov. 30, 2017
A caller from Massachusetts phoned the BSO to report that Cruz collected guns and knives and could be a “school shooter in the making.” A BSO deputy advised the caller to contact the Palm Beach sheriff.
Jan. 5, 2018
The FBI received a tip by “a person close to Nikolas Cruz,” alerting them to “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
But the public access line that received the tip failed to follow the protocol in place for such alerts. “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office,” admitted the FBI, “and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
Feb. 14, 2018
At 2:21, Scot Peterson, the school resource officer, was in another school building when Cruz entered the scene of the shooting. He heard the shots being fired and ran towards the building—but he didn’t go in. Though Peterson was armed and trained for a mass shooter scenario, he waited outside for four minutes—until the gunshot stopped. He was suspended without pay, then resigned and retired.