Anna Sheffer
February 15, 2018 1:39 pm

UPDATE, 2/18/17, 7:03 a.m. PST: This article previously ran with the headline “It’s been confirmed that the Florida shooter belonged to a white supremacist group.” Law enforcement agencies have since said that there is no evidence to support this. The rumor is believed to have been spread by white nationalists.

The deadliest school shooting of 2018 took place yesterday, February 14th, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, entered the school and opened fire, killing 17 and injuring 23. On February 15th, a Florida-based white supremacist group has claimed that Cruz was one of its members.

Jordan Jereb, the leader of the white supremacist group Republic of Florida, told the Associated Press that Cruz was a member and participated in the group’s exercises in Tallahassee. Jereb stated that he wasn’t close to Cruz and that Cruz “acted on his own behalf” in the shooting. He also said that Cruz had had “trouble with a girl,” implying that could have been a motivating factor in the Valentine’s Day attack.

Cruz is a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas who was expelled in 2017 for disciplinary problems. His former classmates have described him as a “loner” and recalled his obsession with weapons. Social media accounts in Cruz’s name feature photos of guns and knives and animals that Cruz presumably killed. And other accounts in Cruz’s name posted racist comments about Muslims and black people and threats of violence.

The mass shooter was able to legally purchase the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that he used in the attack. And The New York Times reports that in Florida this rifle is easier to buy than a handgun.

Broward's Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

In September 2017, the FBI received a tip from a Mississippi vlogger that a user named Nikolas Cruz had written “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” in a YouTube comment. The FBI investigated the comment but was unable to verify who had posted it.

Cruz was moved to the jail in Broward County on February 15th. He is being held without bail and has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

What Cruz did was an unspeakable act of violence, and now more than ever we need legislation to prevent mass shootings like this one. Our hearts break for the Parkland community.