More than a year before Nikolas Cruz allegedly went on a shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that resulted in 17 deaths, school officials and a sheriff’s deputy had recommended he be involuntarily committed for mental evaluation, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
The documents show that Cruz was very much on the radar of mental health professionals and the Broward County school system, yet very little appears to have been done other than these evaluations. There has no clarification about why there was no follow-up.
According to The Chicago Tribune, a commitment under the law would have made it more difficult if not impossible for Nikolas Cruz to obtain a gun legally.
Cruz is accused of the shooting rampage that killed 14 students and three school employees at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14. In addition, 17 people were wounded.
So How Did This Happen
The AP obtained documents in the criminal case against Nikolas Cruz that reveal school officials and a sheriff’s deputy thought Cruz should be involuntary committed for a mental evaluation back in September 2016. Coincidentally, the AP reports, school resource officer who recommended that Cruz be committed was Scot Peterson — the same Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the documents, which are part of Cruz’s criminal case in the shooting, show that he had written the word “kill” in a notebook, told a classmate that he wanted to buy a gun and use it, and had cut his arm supposedly in anger because he had broken up with a girlfriend. He also told another student he had drunk gasoline and was throwing up. Calls had even been made to the FBI about the possibility of Cruz using a gun at school.
Cruz could have forcibly been committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act. That law allows for involuntary commitment for mental health examination for at least three days
That involuntary commitment would have been a serious obstacle or maybe even prevented Cruz from being able to legally obtain the AR-15 rifle used in the Parkland massacre, authorities say.
How Did This Slip Through The Cracks
Despite the warnings and recommendations regarding Cruz’s state of mental health, there’s no evidence that he was ever committed.
The Chicago Tribune goes more in depth:
The documents do not say why Cruz was not committed under the Baker Act or whether he may not have qualified for other reasons. The law allows a law enforcement officer such as Peterson to initiate commitment under the Baker Act.
After a Sept. 28, 2016 interview, the documents say Cruz “reports that he cut his arms 3-4 weeks ago and states that this is the only time he has ever cut. (Cruz) states that he cut because he was lonely, states that he had broken up with his girlfriend and reports that his grades had fallen. (Cruz) states that he is better now, reports that he is no longer lonely and states that his grades have gone back up.”
He also told the clinician he owned only a pellet gun and was not capable of doing “serious harm” to anyone.
FBI Accepting Responsibility
The FBI is taking the blame for not acting on the situation regarding Nikolas Cruz.
The federal agency issued a statement on Friday saying that it had been notified about Cruz’s “desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts.” A tipster also warned the FBI of “the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
“We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received,” the FBI said.