PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – Investigators have been talking to a Parkland family, who housed suspected high school shooter Nikolas Cruz, hoping to find insights into his actions.
The 19-year-old, accused in the third worst school shooting in the U.S., has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Jim Lewis, an attorney for the family that lives in that home which is about three miles away from the school, said Cruz moved in with them about three months ago after his mother died.
“When they were made aware of this and cleared out and brought down to the Broward Sheriff’s Office where they’ve been for hours cooperating. They’ve opened their home up for law enforcement, the sheriff’s office, the FBI, whoever it is, to go through every stitch to see if they can find any clue in there to find why this has happened,” said Lewis.
Lewis added that the family had no idea that something like this would happen.
“They are shocked, they cannot believe this. This family had no predilection, saw nothing coming, the alleged shooter didn’t tip anybody, didn’t call anybody, text anybody, or warn anybody that this was about to happen,” he said.
On Thursday, F.B.I. Agents and BSO deputies returned to the home and sealed off a section of Loxahatchee Road as they searched for evidence and clues in the case.
Lewis said the family knew Cruz had a rifle and made him keep it locked up in their home.
“They had strict rules about it being kept locked in a gun safe, which is our understanding where the gun was locked. They don’t know how it got out,” said Lewis.
As to why they let him keep a rifle?
“He’s 19-years-old, he’s not a kid and he brought many of his possessions into the home,” he said.
Lewis said Cruz lost his mother in November of last year and his father before that. He said Cruz was depressed about losing his mother.
Cruz had a job at a Dollar Store, according to Lewis, and was attending class at an adult education center in order to get his GED degree.
Lewis told CBS This Morning Cruz was friends with their son. “They met at the school. The son needed the kid. He didn’t have anyplace to go so they gave him a room. Like they say, no good deed ever goes unpunished. They feel bad for Nik but they feel more bad for everyone else involved.”
Lewis went on, “The family is just as grief stricken as everybody else. The young man was at the school yesterday when the shooting occurred and he has lost friends. They just don’t know what to say and they don’t want to talk to anybody.”
The family also said, according to Lewis, that Cruz was never aggressive.
“They didn’t see anything. They said he was very respectful, quiet and a little depressed about losing his mother but never did they see anything violent or any aggression to the school or anybody else. They are totally shocked by this.”
Cruz was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year for reportedly threatening students at the school and was barred from campus, according to BSO.
Lewis said the family’s son, along with Cruz’s half-brother, was brought in for questioning.
Neighbor Paul Gold said Cruz was particularly upset after the death of his mother.
“At times there would be so much anger and pain inside of him,” said Gold.
He said Cruz complained about being picked on at his former school, Stoneman Douglas.
“Kids mistreated him,” he said. “Obviously it wasn’t the best, you know, hand in life. It makes me sick that he would do something like that.”
Gold said Cruz’s adoptive mother took him to therapy and he said Cruz had a counselor but that ended when his mother died.
Many of Cruz’s posts on social media are gun and violence-related.
On Instagram, he posted a photo of himself with a shotgun. In another photo, he is seen with a pistol which appears to be a type of BB gun. Other pictures show him holding long knives. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel described the posts as “disturbing.”