On February 14th, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, ultimately killing at least 17 people and injuring many more, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Since then, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz has been named the suspected shooter and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Reports about Cruz have come out since the arrest, and many of them paint a picture of a disturbed, angry young man. They also show that the shooting suspect has a history of violence against women, a trait that’s unsurprisingly common among mass shooters.
In the last two days, students, teachers, neighbors, and many others who knew or knew of Cruz have spoken out about his past violent behavior.
Cruz and his little brother were adopted when Cruz was two years old by Lynda and Roger Cruz. Their adoptive father died of a heart attack when the two were young. At the time of the shooting, Cruz had been living with a friend’s family who had taken him in after his adoptive mother’s death to try to get his life on a better track.
It was clear that Cruz needed the help.
His behavior was extremely troubling, and he appears to have been violent toward women. Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, although school officials have not yet revealed the reason why. While superintendent Robert Runcie says there was no indication that Cruz could be this violent, some teachers and students tell a different story.
Math teacher Jim Gard said, “We received emails about him from the administration.” He added, “We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him. There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
A 17-year-old student, Victoria Olvera, said that Cruz was expelled after he got into a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend and also said that Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.
Gard said that several students had told him Cruz was really interested in one girl at school “to the point of stalking her.” One student, Milan Parodie, told The Daily Beast, “Girls thought he was creepy and weird.” She added, “He tried to talk to one of my girlfriends and he said she was cute, but she was weirded out and he was bothering her.”
Another student, Dakota Mutchler, said he had once been close with Cruz but hadn’t seen him since he was expelled. Mutchler said, “He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there.”
According to the Washington Post, a female neighbor “said she caught him peeking in her bedroom window.” One of his neighbors from growing up, Rhonda Roxburgh, said that one morning, Cruz attacked her car with his backpack out of nowhere when she was driving past him. She says he laughed and sneered when she got out of the car to confront him and call police.
Acting violent toward women isn’t a rare characteristic in a mass shooter. One study says that in more than half of U.S. shootings between 2009 and 2016, the killer also previously shot a current or former female partner or family member. Many mass shooters in recent history have also been accused of violence against women. There are plenty of examples:
- Elliot Rodger, who killed seven in a shooting rampage in Southern California in 2014, left a video in which he raged about women who had rejected him the in the past, saying, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it… You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.”
- Omar Mateen, the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter, physically abused his former wife.
- Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, had a long history of violence against women, including an arrest for rape and sexual violence.
- Adam Lanza, responsible for the Sandy Hook shooting, shot his mother four times before heading to the school. Investigators also found a Word document on his computer where he wrote about why women were inherently selfish.
- Dylann Roof, who shot up an African American church in Charleston in 2015, was raised in a home with a father who emotionally and physically abused his step-mother.
- Devin Patrick Kelley, the shooter at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas, had previously been kicked out of the Air Force for assaulting his wife and her child.
- Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, was accused of harassing two women at the university years earlier.
And that, unfortunately, isn’t even a comprehensive list. According to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, the majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are related to domestic or family violence. Although those who have been accused of domestic violence are legally barred from buying guns, they clearly manage to get their hands on them.
This conversation about mass shooters and their anger toward women isn’t a new one. Sadly, as Quartz points out, the discussion surrounding domestic violence and mass shootings is often forgotten amid gun control debates and other controversial topics. A shooter’s violent past is revealed in great detail when they are first accused, but the conversation eventually dies out, and people forget until another shooting happens.