Before Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students in Parkland, Florida, he told a 13-year-old girl he was distraught over bullying and was contemplating suicide, the Miami Herald reports.
Cruz fatally gunned down 17 people and injured another 17 in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had been a student before enrolling in an alternative facility last year.
The two met on Instagram and had been communicating via text messages and phone calls, but the girl’s mother says her daughter had no idea what Cruz was planning and that their contact had ended weeks before the shooting.
“The texts were pretty normal,” the mother told the newspaper. “But it was traumatizing for my daughter (upon the realization that Cruz was the gunman). She thought he was a decent person. She would’ve said something if she thought those kids were in danger.”
The teen told authorities that she believed Cruz was upset “because he got bullied a lot,” although there is little evidence that he actually was bullied.
Rather, many people who encountered Cruz said they were shaken by his erratic and at times violent actions.
“He was Jekyll and Hyde,” said Paul Gold, Cruz’s former neighbor. “He was very nice, very polite, sweet person when he was sweet and then, you know, he would freak out and start throwing things and start breaking things and start holding his ears and screaming.”
Cruz, now 20, reportedly told the girl that he was two years younger; the girl also claimed she was older than she actually was.
The newspaper did not identify the girl, who is now 14 and in high school, because she is a minor. The girl told the Miami Herald that Cruz discussed shooting guns but only recreationally. She said he did not disclose an intent to act violently toward others.
“I thought I knew him pretty well,” the girl said, adding: “He wasn’t acting like himself.”
[Feature Photo: Nikolas Cruz via AP/Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel]