Florida couple regret sheltering accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, letting him keep guns | #schoolshooting

In a letter that is part of a legal agreement to settle numerous civil lawsuits, James and Kimberly Snead said they should have believed what they were told — that Nikolas Cruz, now 21, was homicidal, untrustworthy and infatuated with firearms, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
“We thought we could handle this troubled young man, unfortunately, we were wrong,” the Sneads said in a public apology.

“We were particularly wrong to allow him to store his firearms in our house, including the AR-15 used in this tragedy.”

James and Kimberly Snead took in Nikolas Cruz after the death of his mother.
James and Kimberly Snead took in Nikolas Cruz after the death of his mother. (AP)

The settlement also calls for them to pay $1 to the victims’ families and forbids them and their attorney from speaking of or profiting from the story. The families of those killed in the Parkland high school shooting released the letter on Tuesday during a conference call with the newspaper.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed, said he and other families of the victims pushed for the public apology.

“They didn’t want to accept accountability, and we forced it on them. For us, that’s why we’re here. We want accountability,” Pollack told the newspaper.

Jim Lewis, who represents the Sneads, said he had no comment, adding, “I agreed and signed to say nothing.”

Nikolas Cruz is accused of murdering 14 students at three staff at a school in Parkland, Florida.
Nikolas Cruz is accused of murdering 14 students at three staff at a school in Parkland, Florida. (AP)

Cruz was 19 when he entered the campus where he once attended classes, carrying an AR-15 rifle, authorities said. He went into the freshman building and killed 14 students, a teacher, a coach and the athletic director, prosecutors said.

Cruz had spent several years at a special school for students with serious behavioural disorders and had been labelled “emotionally disturbed.”

In the letter, the Sneads said they “will forever regret” taking in Cruz, the newspaper reported.

“We did so believing we were helping a troubled young man who needed help,” the Sneads wrote. “We are profoundly sorry for the actions and inactions which may have contributed to Nikolas Cruz’s ability to carry out the murders on Feb. 14, 2018.”

Nikolas Cruz posted this photo of his cache of weapons on Instagram.
Nikolas Cruz posted this photo of his cache of weapons on Instagram. (Instagram)

The couple had told investigators they allowed Cruz to keep a collection of knives and guns at their home, including the assault-style rifle authorities said was used in the killing.

James Snead, an Army veteran, said the family had rifles in a gun safe.

The couple still say they thought Cruz’s guns were secure in a locked cabinet and only they had the key. But they now admit: “We were particularly wrong to allow him to store his firearms in our house.”

They were hit with more than a dozen civil lawsuits after the shootings.

In the letter, the Sneads admit that Rocxanne Deschamps, a neighbour of the Cruz family, warned them about the teen, the newspaper reported. Deschamps briefly took in Cruz after his mother died in November 2017, but kicked him out after arguments.

Nikolas Cruz fronting court, and sporting a 'Make America Great Again' cap in an Instagram profile photo.
Nikolas Cruz fronting court, and sporting a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap in an Instagram profile photo.

“Ms. Deschamps informed us of warning signs of his behaviour which occurred in her home and that he had chosen to keep his rifle over continuing to live with her,” the Sneads wrote.

The letter also said they received an even more dire warning from Katherine Blaine, a New York cousin of Cruz’s mother.

“Kathy Blaine informed us that Nikolas Cruz was violent, dangerous, infatuated with guns and knives, untrustworthy and threatened to kill people on Instagram, among other things,” the letter said.

Blaine, reached by phone on Tuesday, told the newspaper: “I blame them for not listening to me; that’s what I blame them for. Why the hell didn’t you listen to Rocxanne and me, to get the guns away from him?”

Students embrace at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the mass shooting.
Students embrace at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the mass shooting. (AP)

The letter is meant to serve as a warning to others who may find themselves in a similar situation — wanting to help a teen in need. They advise making sure all firearms are securely locked, and frequent reviews of social media accounts.

“If they have a history or exhibit any warning signs you must immediately get him or her the professional help they need and contact law enforcement,” the letter states.


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