Warning: This story quotes graphic racist and homophobic material.
Before he killed 17 people at a South Florida high school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly threatened an ex-classmate who had started dating his former girlfriend, according to a report in Buzzfeed News.
“I’m going to f----ng kill you,” Cruz wrote last year to Enea Sabadini, 17, in an Instagram message shared with Buzzfeed. “I’m going to watch you bleed.”
Cruz also used racist and homophobic slurs — and told Sabadini: “You have no idea what I’m capable of.”
The ominous social media messages were accompanied by a photo showing several guns lying on a bed, including an AR-15 rifle. Cruz used such a gun during his shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday. His lawyer said he plans to plead guilty if prosecutors agree not to seek the death penalty.
Cruz legally purchased at least five firearms in the past year, in addition to the AR-15, a law enforcement source familiar with the ongoing investigation told the Miami Herald on Saturday, confirming an earlier report by CNN. The weapons were recovered from the home where he was living with his friend’s family in northwest Broward County, the source said.
Cruz and his ex-girlfriend broke up around April 2016, Buzzfeed reported. Sabadini started dating her in August, leading to tension and angry fights between the two high school students.
In September 2016, the Florida Department of Children & Families was called in to investigate Cruz’s generally troubling behavior.
“Mr. Cruz was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms,” DCF’s abuse hotline was told, according to an agency report obtained by the Herald. “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun.”
Cruz’s mother, Lynda, told DCF he was having romantic problems.
“She and the girl’s mother told the kids they had to end the relationship because it was unhealthy for everyone,” the DCF report stated.
Sabadini told Buzzfeed he had two physical fights with Cruz after the break-up.
He “called me a n----r multiple times,” Sabadini said. “He was also trying to stab me with pencils.”
DCF investigators ultimately determined Cruz was stable. It’s not clear whether they were told of the fights.
Sabadini and his friends said they reported Cruz’s threats of violence and erratic behavior to school administrators on several occasions. In the spring of 2016, a friend of Cruz’s ex-girlfriend told BuzzFeed that she showed the threatening messages to Kelvin Greenleaf, a security specialist at the high school. Greenleaf could not be reached.
After one fight between Sabadini and Cruz at the school, a student said she warned administrators to check Cruz’s bag because: “I know that he’s brought weapons to school.” Several other students, and one adult at the school, said they were also aware of the threats, according to Buzzfeed.
The Broward County School District did not comment to Buzzfeed on how these tips were handled, although Cruz later left the school.
It wasn’t the only warning sign: The FBI issued an apology Friday for failing to act on a tip from someone described as close to Cruz, who said he was possibly planning a school shooting.
The Jan. 5 call was the second tip the FBI received about Cruz’s plans. The first came in September 2017, when Cruz wrote a comment on YouTube that he was going to become a “professional school shooter.” Just a month earlier, Cruz had sent Sabadini a second round of violent and threatening messages.
Sabadini responded that he and Cruz’s ex had broken up, but Cruz persisted, according to Buzzfeed.
“You took my ex I been depressed,” he wrote. “I been drinking and all I think is hurting you.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the timing of Cruz’s break-up with his then girlfriend.
Miami Herald staff writers Jay Weaver and Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this report