MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In the hours after the Parkland shooting police and media focused on the confessed killer, Nikolas Cruz. But at a Broward County home about 10 miles away from the tragedy another Nikolas Cruz and his family were trying to make sense of what was going on.
“It was scary,” said Nikolas Cruz, 18, who shares the same name and same spelling as the confessed Parkland shooter. “It was really scary for me.”
This Nikolas Cruz just graduated from high school, loves to play basketball and has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. He also loves following the news.
“I’m a news junkie,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
As the Parkland story unfolded that day Nikolas’ mother, Ivonne Moran, said seeing the other Cruz on tv and hearing his name became unbearable.
“He got scared and he would say, ‘Turn the tv off, turn the tv off, turn the tv off,’” she said.
Media called their home, police showed up (“I don’t blame them. They were doing their job,” Ivonne said) and as time wore on this Nikolas became embarrassed by his name and ridiculed for it.
“My whole life became controversial for the past year,” Nikolas said.
Ivonne also said in a twist of fate she considered sending Nikolas to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when Nikolas was younger because of their strong programs for exceptional students.
“I think now, my goodness, if he had gone to that school, what if they would have thought it was him and not the actual shooter,” she said. “How would that have turned out?”
Ivonne recounted numerous incidents over the past 18 months where Nikolas’ name raised eyebrows, brought scorn or created uncomfortable situations.
“The joy of hearing my son’s name is pretty much gone,” she said.
Specifically, Ivonne remembers a moment where Nikolas, who loves reading about history and politics, met a local politician who reacted with horror when Nikolas told him his name.
“(Nikolas) goes, ‘My name’s Nikolas Cruz,” she said. “And (the politician) goes, ‘Whoa. Yikes. No, no, no. That’s a horrible name. You need to change that name. It’s disgusting. It’s horrible.’”
To his credit, Ivonne said that politician later visited their home to personally apologize. But she said the worries remain for Nikolas and the family. She said they’ve been concerned that someone might try and hurt him because they think he’s somehow connected to the crime. She also said Nikolas is still concerned police might come for him.
“He’s scared that the police are gonna come and get him,” she said. “It’s still there. You coming — he was like, ‘They’re gonna think I did it and not him and they’re gonna arrest me.’”
Ivonne said she her husband spoke on the day of the shooting about the possibility of changing Nikolas’ name. They figured if the spelling was different it might not be a problem. However, the names are spelled exactly the same. Last month, Nikolas and his mother filed a petition in Broward County Court last month to allow Nikolas to legally change his name.
“The weight of that name is gonna be gone,” Ivonne said to Nikolas. “Yeah,” he replied.
Ultimately, Ivonne said the decision was up to Nikolas and she’s pleased with his choice.
“I think it’s gonna make him happy,” she said. “I think it’s gonna be a new chapter and he can move on.”
Move on to college and to continue his dream of becoming a historical analyst. Nikolas says he would love to attend Harvard University someday. And Nikolas hopes to do it without having to put the name he shares with a confessed killer on applications or resumes.
“I’ll be a different person with that name, with Nikolas Renee Moran,” Nikolas said. “I’ll be happy with that.”
Nikolas and his family will head to Broward County Court in the coming weeks to formally ask a judge to change his name. Nikolas’ family hopes the judge understands the burden this has been for him and his family and grants their wish.
Nikolas will be taking his stepfather’s last name.