The 19 year old allegedly responsible for the Valentine’s Day massacre at a Florida high school may have snapped after his mother died suddenly from the flu, according to family members.
Nikolas Cruz was arrested and taken into custody Wednesday after taking his AR-15 rifle into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killing at least 17 people and injuring over a dozen others.
The suspect and his younger brother Zachary were reportedly adopted as babies by Floridians Lynda and Roger Cruz. Family members revealed that Roger died from a heart attack when the boys were children, ten years ago, which left Lynda as their only caregiver.
According to her cousin Kathie Blaine, Lynda, 68 died suddenly in November after checking into a clinic for the flu. She was rushed to the hospital where she developed pneumonia and quickly succumbed. Blaine told ABC News that aside from the flu symptoms, she had been healthy beforehand.
With the loss of the few relatives he had left, Cruz may have reached his threshold.
“Lynda was very close to them,” said sister-in-law Barbara Kumbatovic to the Washington Post. “She put a lot of time and effort into those boys, trying to give them a good life and upbringing.
“I don’t think it [the massacre] had anything to do with his upbringing. It could have been the loss of his mom.”
Kumbatovic also told the publication that Cruz “did have some [emotional] issues and he may have been taking medication,” echoing the words of an anonymous family member who told the Sun-Sentinel that he’d been diagnosed with autism.
After Lynda’s unexpected death, the brothers lived with friends for a short stint, before a friend’s family allowed him to move in. They reportedly encouraged him to work and talk adult education classes after being expelled from Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons — apparently to no avail.
Cruz had been allowed to keep the AR-15 used in the shooting, inside the home — he reportedly purchased it legally prior moving into the friend’s home — under lock and key. The family had not seen him use it since moving in.
“The family is devastated, they didn’t see this coming,” said family attorney Jim Lewis, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished. He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”
The suspected gun had long since been flagged as a potential threat after a history of disturbing behavior and anger issues.
“I think everyone in this school had it in the back of their mind that if anyone was supposed to do it, it was most likely going to be him,” said Dakota Mutchler, 17, who went to middle school with Cruz to the Post.
According to Broward County Mayor Beam Furr, he had been attending a mental health clinic but had stopped going for treatment for more than a year.
“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr told CNN via the Post. “We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected. … In this case, we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid.”