The authorities had enough to Baker Act him.
Eighteen months before Nikolas Cruz shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, staff were so worried about his fascination with guns that they banned him from practicing shooting skills with the JROTC, according to mental health records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
A safety plan created by the school for Cruz in September 2016 also prohibited him from carrying a backpack on campus.
Cruz is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder stemming from his Feb. 14 shooting rampage at the Parkland school.
The mental health records show counselors were sent to Cruz’s home multiple times in September 2016, the same month the Department of Children and Families conducted its own investigation following up on concerns from the school and from his family.
Other documents show that psychiatrists recommended placing Cruz in a residential treatment facility as early as 2013, the same year he and his brother learned they were adopted. He was 14 years old.
A psychiatric memo dated 2014 from the alternative Cross Creek School that Cruz attended in eighth grade describes him as “moody, impulsive, angry, attention seeking, annoys others on purpose and threatens to hurt others.” It describes him as having a strained relationship with his brother and indicates problems with Cruz’s behavior began in 2004, when he watched his father, Roger, die from a heart attack.
But the bulk of the documents focus on a one-week period in September 2016, when the Sheriff’s Office, DCF and mental health officials were investigating claims that Cruz posed, at least, a threat to himself.
Despite the repeated visits, neither the Broward Sheriff’s Office nor Henderson Behavioral Health, a mental health clinic in Davie that treated him for two years, ordered Cruz hospitalized for observation under the state’s Baker Act, which allows intervention when a person is deemed to be a danger to himself or others.
A Henderson social worker arrived at the Cruz home Sept. 23, the day before he turned 18, after his mother, Lynda, told school officials he “was punching holes in the wall and verbally aggressive,” according to one report.
Cruz, who was taking medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, told a social worker, Brittany Jacobs, he was upset because his girlfriend had broken up with him and was “playing with his emotions.” He denied having homicidal or suicidal thoughts. He did admit cutting his arm with a pencil sharpener the night before.
But the cuts “did not appear deep or fresh,” according to Jacobs’ report.
“Client [Cruz] did report that it was the first time he did this,” wrote Jacobs, who said she told Cruz’s mother to lock up sharpeners and give him access only when he needed them.
Five days later, the resource officer at Stoneman Douglas and two school counselors relayed an allegation that Cruz drank gasoline in a suicide attempt, cut himself and “that he had a gun at home and was thinking of using it.”
Cruz then told another social worker from Henderson that he was not suicidal, but this time he denied cutting himself. He also denied drinking gasoline or telling anyone that he had.
“I was joking,” he told his mother. “I didn’t drink gasoline. I don’t want to die.”
He was not being abused and was not abusing drugs or alcohol, he told the second social worker.
Officials from Henderson declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality.
The school resource officer, a Broward sheriff’s deputy, promised to search Cruz’s home for a gun, according to the mental status assessment on Sept. 28, 2016. A sheriff’s report from the same date mentions no search for a gun, indicating only that Cruz wanted to buy one. The deputy who filed the report confirmed that Henderson and DCF were at the visit and said Cruz showed no signs of mental illness or criminal activity.