Broward County

He had a ‘cold stare.’ What neighbors are saying about suspected school shooter

Police repeatedly visited the Parkland home of 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz as he was growing up, former neighbors say.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting suspect scared residents of his upscale street with erratic and sometimes violent behavior, especially toward animals.

“That child had an extremely cold stare,” said Rhonda Roxburgh. “He was going to hurt somebody. I just didn’t know it would be this bad.”

Roxburgh, who now lives in North Carolina, said other children seemed scared of him, too, standing far away at a nearby bus stop.

“He would sit on the curb by himself,” she said. “He was isolated. Nobody wanted to be around him.”

Neighbors said the police had been called to the Cruz home “dozens” of times.

“BSO knew there was a problem,” according to Roxburgh.

The Miami Herald has requested the logs reflecting those police calls but has not yet received them.

When trouble came, Cruz’s adoptive mother, Lynda, was always “very apologetic,” said former neighbor Shelby Speno, 48, including after an incident where Nikolas Cruz pelted her family’s car with eggs.

“I think she had her hands full,” Speno said.

Cruz’s troubling behavior got worse as he grew older in a quiet neighborhood of spacious homes, some gated or fenced off from the street.

Speno said she once saw him shooting at a neighbor’s chickens with a B.B. or pellet gun. Other neighbors reported him shooting at squirrels, poking a rabbit hole with a stick and setting his family’s dog on another neighbor’s piglets.

He was “just a little bit creepy,” Speno said. “I would wave and he would stare back.”

His younger brother, Zachary, was quiet and caused no problems, often skateboarding around the neighborhood, residents said. The Cruz family sold the home for $575,000 in early 2017, according to Broward county property records.

Roxburgh’s parents, Christine and Malcolm, were out of town when their neighbors moved out about a year ago.

“It was a relief for us,” Malcolm Roxburgh, 82, said. “We never knew what they were going to do.”

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas

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