School shooter participated in 'training' with Florida white supremacist group (Update: 'There was a legit misunderstanding')

[Update: The dope who told the AP, Daily Beast and ADL that the shooter was part of his group now says he got confused. See below for updates.]

The Republic of Florida militia, a white supremacist group, told the Anti-Defamation League Thursday that school shooter Nikolas Cruz participated in training activities with them.

After  self-described ROF members claimed on the discussion forum 4chan that Cruz had also been a member, the Anti-Defamation League called the ROF hotline and spoke with an ROF member who identified himself as Jordan Jereb.

Jereb, based in Tallahassee, is believed to be the leader of ROF.  In 2016, he was arrested on charges of threatening a staffer in the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott because he was allegedly angry at the staffer’s son.

Jereb said that Cruz was associated with ROF, having been “brought up” by another membe[r].  Jereb added that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida.

ROF has members in north and south Florida. The alt right white supremacist group borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (not itself a white supremacist movement).  ROF describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.

The Daily Beast got some additional details after also speaking with Jordan Jereb:

Jordan Jereb, captain of the Republic of Florida, said Cruz “was part of our organization.” ROF hosted a “paramilitary” training session in the Tallahassee area that Cruz attended, Jereb said. “He probably used that training to do what he did yesterday. Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out,” Jereb added…

While Jereb denied responsibility for the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoo[l], he admitted someone in the ROF group purchased Cruz a rifle.

“I think somebody bought him a Mosin-Nagant, but that’s bolt action. He had a semi-automatic in the school,” Jereb said, adding, “He may have buried it in his survival cache. We encourage members to do that.”

The story also notes a couple more social media postings on YouTube videos by Cruz. One expressed his desire to kill members of Antifa and a second said “Elliot rodger will not be forgotten.” Elliot Rodger is the 22-year-old who killed six people near UC Santa Barbara in 2014. Rodger wrote a long biography of sorts and said he was angry that women weren’t interested in him.

The ROF publishes videos regularly on YouTube. This one from April 2017 is headlined “Best Training Moments.” It looks like cosplay for chunky guys to me, lots of saluting and play wrestling. It’s not clear if Cruz attended this particular training or is visible in this clip because many of the people are masked.

[Note: The group apparently took down this video clip or made it private.]

Update: Would the leader of a white supremacist group want to associate himself with a school shooter for attention? Some, including this writer for Vox are now questioning the reliability of Jordan Jereb’s claims:

The ADF story above specifically claimed Cruz had carpooled from southern Florida to the training in Tallahassee, so he did address the distance but again is there any proof? Beauchamp also points to this local news report which indicates the claims are looking shaky:

Local law enforcement sources have so far not found a connection between accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz and a Tallahassee-based paramilitary group.

Leon County law enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they could not find information linking Cruz, 19, to the Republic of Florida Militia, as first reported by the group’s self-proclaimed leader Jordan Jereb.

That story specifies “local” law enforcement but I think it’s a safe bet the FBI will be having a chat with Jordan Jereb. Again, it’s hard to imagine the mindset that sees the killing of children in a school as some kind of PR opportunity but maybe this shooter isn’t a white supremacist after all.

Update: Now Jordan Jereb is claiming this was all a big misunderstanding:

This dope talked to at least three different organizations and specifically claimed the school shooter had been part of his groups’ training/cosplay. Now he’s trying to blame the (((media))) for the fact that he accidentally associated his group with a mass killer. Of course, that’s assuming he’s telling the truth now. I guess it’s possible he really is that dumb, but it’s also possible he thought this would be a cute way to get his name in the news and then realized it was less cute once the FBI started calling his house (or more likely his mom’s house). Either way, he’s not the brightest bulb in the pack.