South Florida

Before the school killings, the shooter bought an arsenal of rifles, authorities say

When he turned 18, Nikolas Cruz went on a shopping spree — for an arsenal of assault-style weapons with the rapid-fire capability of killing dozens in a flash.

When Cruz celebrated his milestone birthday in September 2016, federal law gave him the right to buy these types of high-powered long guns.

After clearing a background check, he not only bought the AR-15-style assault rifle that he used to kill 17 students and faculty at a Parkland high school, but also legally purchased seven other high-powered rifles, federal authorities said Tuesday.

The guns, including shotguns and other semiautomatic weapons, were recovered from the home of a family with whom he was living before he went on his deadly rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, according to authorities.

Three other similar rifles that belonged to the Snead family, who had taken in Cruz after his mother died in November, were also confiscated from the residence by federal agents and Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies, they said.

Of the 10 long guns seized at the Sneads’ home in Parkland, it’s not clear which belonged to him or which belonged to the family. But among those taken from the residence were various shotguns, an AK-47, a Ruger rifle, a .22 caliber Marlin rifle and a 9mm carbine, authorities said.

Seven of them belonged to Cruz, 19, who has been charged with premeditated murder of 17 Stoneman Douglas students and faculty. He also wounded 15 others in the assault.

cruz guns instagram copy
Nikolas Cruz posted this photo on Instagram. The guns include an AR-15 rifle, the type used in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Instagram

It’s unclear how Cruz, who most recently worked as low-paid clerk at a Dollar Tree store, was able to pay for his cache of weapons.

As the shocking news of the massacre spread from South Florida to the rest of the country, countless people were surprised to learn that under federal law an 18-year-old can legally buy a long gun such as a semiautomatic assault rifle, but not a handgun. To purchase a pistol, for example, a buyer must be 21 years old under federal law.

“It’s ridiculous,” said one law enforcement official familiar with the mass shooting case.

In other shooting-related developments, the Miami Herald has learned that Broward Sheriff’s deputies visited Cruz’s childhood home at 6166 NW 80th Ter. in Parkland at least 39 times in seven years, from January 2010 to March 27, 2017, according to the agency’s incident response log for that address.

The log shows deputies responded to calls mostly for disturbances, but also missing persons, 911 hang-ups, and one call each for a mentally ill person on Jan. 15, 2013, and one described as child/elderly abuse on Sept. 28, 2016.

Only three of the calls led to a written report, including the calls for a mentally ill person and for child/elderly abuse. The third call that led to a written report was described as a police service call.

During the same time frame, Broward deputies logged 29 service calls to 7200 Loxahatchee Rd. in Parkland, the home of the Snead family.

Only one of the calls to the Loxahatchee Road address occurred while Cruz lived with the Sneads: a police service call at 11:04 p.m. on Feb. 14, the day of the Stoneman Douglas High shooting.

At 8442 Lakeview Trail in Parkland, listed as Cruz’s permanent address in his BSO booking report after the shooting, deputies responded to three calls from March 27, 2017 to Feb. 16, 2018. There was one call for a domestic disturbance on July 18, 2017; a second call for theft on Aug. 16, 2017; and a third call described as an information call on Nov. 1, 2017, the day Cruz’s mother died.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami

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