Today we learn more about what the FBI would have uncovered if it had followed up on the tip about Nikolas Cruz that it received in January. After the death of Cruz’s adoptive mother last November, he and his brother Zachary moved in with a neighbor named Rocxanne Deschamps and her 22-year-old son Rock. Within weeks of arriving there, both Rocxanne and her son were calling the police to report that Nikolas Cruz was violent and making threats involving his guns. From CNN:
On the day after Thanksgiving, Cruz was at work at a Dollar Tree store. Rocxanne Deschamps’ son, Rock, 22, called 911 to report that an “adopted 19-year-old son” had possibly hidden a “gun in the backyard,” according to a dispatcher’s notes. Rock Deschamps told law enforcement “there were no weapons allowed in the household,” the report said. It’s unclear from the record whether sheriff’s deputies conducted a search. The incident was classified as “domestic unfounded,” which means a deputy didn’t find proof to back up the claims.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was called again to the home four days later, when Rock said Cruz lashed out against the family that took him in, according to the Palm Beach deputy’s report and dispatcher notes. The deputy went to a local park and found Cruz, who explained that he had misplaced a photo of his recently deceased mother and, emotionally distraught, began punching the wall…
Rock interrupted Cruz and a fight broke out between them, according to the documents. Cruz left the home, and Rocxanne Deschamps called 911. She warned the police dispatcher that Cruz said “he was going to get his gun and come back,” records show. She said Cruz had “bought a gun from Dick’s last week and is now going to pick it up.”
Rocxanne Deschamps told the dispatcher that Cruz had “bought tons of ammo” and “has used a gun against ppl before,” the notes said. “He has put the gun to others heads in the past.”
When the police arrived after that call, they spoke to both Rock Deschamps and Nikolas Cruz. Cruz apologized for losing his temper and Rock declined to press charges citing the recent loss of Cruz’s mother. The two hugged it out in front of the police and no one was arrested.
Not long after, Nikolas Cruz left the Deschamps’ home and went to live with the Sneads. They allowed him to keep his guns in a safe to which they had the key. Cruz was supposed to ask for permission to remove the guns from the safe and did so on a couple of occasions. However, the Sneads now believe Cruz had kept a key for himself.
The 911 calls are public record, which is how CNN got this information. Had the FBI followed up on the tip it received in January, it would have been able to locate the calls from November, calls in which Cruz was described as violent, as having made threats involving his guns, and as having put a gun to “others heads in the past.” That would have added a lot of credibility to the tip suggesting Cruz was a danger.
You can even imagine a scenario in which someone put these 911 calls together with the even earlier report about someone named “Nikolas Cruz” leaving a message on YouTube saying they wanted to be a professional school shooter and the dozens of disturbance calls to Cruz’s home prior to his mother’s death. If the FBI had put all of that together, they would have interviewed Cruz and spoken to the Sneads, impressing on them how many red flags his behavior had generated. And then, maybe, his access to the gun locker would have been scrutinized or reconsidered at that point.
It’s all speculative, of course. It’s a trail of missed opportunities, one that might not have prevented the attack even under better circumstances. But it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to imagine this whole thing going very differently than it did. All we can say for certain is that because the tip wasn’t passed on, there was no FBI investigation and no chance for anyone to connected the dots in time.
The students being promoted by the media as gun control proponents have been quick to dismiss the failure by the FBI and instead blame politicians for not passing tougher laws. I’m not convinced the FBI’s acknowledged failure isn’t the more serious problem in this case.