South Florida

California man convicted of threatening relatives of Parkland shooting victims online

Thousands of miles away, a young California man assumed various aliases on Instagram to send intimidating messages to relatives of students killed in the mass shooting at a Parkland high school, a federal jury in Fort Lauderdale found.

Brandon Michael Fleury, 22, of Santa Ana, Calif., was found guilty Tuesday of cyberstalking and sending a kidnapping threat to families and classmates of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims who died on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Fleury faces a maximum of 20 years in prison at his Dec. 2 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Rodolfo Ruiz.

According to trial evidence, Fleury used 13 different Instagram accounts under the aliases of alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, notorious serial killer Ted Bundy and others to target people close to the 17 high school students and staff killed in the mass shooting.

Fleury sent many messages under usernames referring to Cruz with his profile picture that taunted recipients about the deaths of loved ones in the Parkland shooting, evidence showed. On Dec. 25, 2018, Fleury sent a message stating, “I’m your abductor I’m kidnapping you fool.”

School Shooting Florida Public Defender
In this April 2019, file photo, Parkland school suspect Nikolas Cruz listens during a hearing at the Broward Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Amy Beth Bennett Sun Sentinel

On Jan. 9, 10, and 11, 2019, Fleury sent other threatening messages from multiple Instagram accounts under the username “the.douglas.shooter” with the profile picture of Cruz, who is accused of firing an assault-style rifle in the mass school shooting. Trial evidence showed Fleury’s messages included the following threats: “With the power of my AR-15, you all die,” and “With the power of my AR-15, I take your loved ones away from you PERMANENTLY.”

According to court records, Fleury also used an Instagram account, “nikolas.killed.your.sister,” to send these threatening messages: “I killed your loved ones ha ha ha” and “cry for me.”

After examining Fleury’s tablets, FBI agents found thousands of saved images of Ted Bundy, the serial killer convicted of murdering young women in Florida and other states in the 1970s. Agents also found images of the relatives and friends of the Parkland shooting victims on Fleury’s tablets as well as saved screenshots of the messages that he had sent them.

While Fleury used different accounts, the FBI said all of them came from the same IP address in California. On Jan. 16, FBI agents and other law enforcement officers searched the home Fleury shared with his father and brother, according to court records.

“Fleury made spontaneous statements to the effect that the agents were there because of ‘some stupid s---’ he had done on the internet,” an agent wrote in a complaint charging Fleury in January.

Fleury told agents “he was motivated by gaining popularity and notoriety after posting the messages,” according to the complaint.