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Police call Florida shooter’s social media presence ‘disturbing’
Coral Springs Talk/Flickr (CC-BY)
The shooter apparently left disturbing content on YouTube and Instagram
In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, authorities are combing through shooter Nikolas Cruz’s social media presence. They’ve found a pattern of disturbing behavior, with multiple red flags showing that Cruz could become violent.
According to the New York Times, Cruz had posted photos of dead animals and weapons on social media, among other violent content. Cruz had apparently posted a photo of a toad he had killed to one of his Instagram accounts. In response to a comment on the post, Cruz commented that toads ran away from him, because “I killed a lot of them.”
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel called Cruz’s online presence “very, very disturbing” at a press conference, but did not go into further detail.
CNN reports that Cruz used racist slurs against African Americans and Muslims online, and potentially had ties to white supremacist groups. Whether Cruz is actually affiliated with white supremacist groups is in dispute, and authorities cannot confirm it.
A YouTube user with the name Nikolas Cruz commented, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” on Ben Bennight’s YouTube channel in September. Bennight, who works as a bail bondsman in Mississippi, reported the comment to YouTube, which then removed the comment. Bennight, 36, also contacted an FBI field office about the comment. Agents interviewed him at the time, but concluded that it was impossible to identify the commenter.
“No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location, or the true identity of the person who posted the comment,” the FBI said in a statement released Thursday.
That same user had also commented, “I whana [sic] shoot people with my AR-15,” “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people,” and “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people,” on YouTube and other sites, according to CNN.
While some of the disturbing content potentially linked to Cruz had been reported to the authorities, the family Cruz was living with at the time of the shooting was unaware of his social media presence.
“They’re not social media people. They’re parents. They’re just not that kind of folks,” said Jim Lewis, an attorney representing the family, during an interview with CNN.
As the debate over gun control rages on social media, Donald Trump on mental health, both in his address to the nation and on Twitter.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” he tweeted Thursday.
Cruz reportedly suffered from depression after the death of his mother on Nov. 1, but no other diagnosable mental health issues have been reported.
Last year, Congress rolled back Obama-era regulations making it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to purchase weapons. Trump’s proposed 2019 budget boosts some mental health resources, but drastically cuts funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.