Sitting beside celebrity attorney Gloria Allred at a news conference in New York Tuesday, the woman who took in Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz said he was obsessed with guns — and had the mental and emotional capacity of a child.
“Nikolas was 19 years old, but he felt mentally and emotionally similar as a 12 year old,” said Rocxanne Deschamps, who allowed Cruz to live with her and her family in a Lantana trailer after his mother, Lynda Cruz, died last year. Deschamps and Lynda Cruz had been neighbors in Parkland and remained close friends.
Speaking to the news media for the first time in more than a month, Deschamps said through tears that Nikolas Cruz’s frightening behavior led her to call 911 three times. She told the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office that Cruz owned guns and had put them to the heads of his mother and younger brother, Zachary Cruz. But deputies said there was nothing they could do.
“He should have never been able to purchase or have those guns in his possession,” said Deschamps, who is now fighting in court to represent Lynda Cruz’s estate.
Deschamps also called to report that Cruz was digging a hole in her back yard, possibly to bury a gun he had bought at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and that he had gotten into a fight with her adult son. Cruz lived with Deschamps for less than a month last November before moving in with another friend.
Allred said her client did “everything that she could” to prevent the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz confessed to killing 17 people. A judge entered a not-guilty plea on Cruz’s behalf.
“Rocxanne feels the system failed the victims of the Parkland tragedy,” said Allred, a high-profile lawyer who often takes controversial cases.
Warning signs about Cruz’s behavior were shared before the shooting with law enforcement, including the FBI and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, as well as Broward County Public Schools and mental health counselors. No one acted with enough urgency to stop his attack.
The young man was obviously depressed, Deschamps said — and she “begged” him to go to the doctor. But he refused to take his medication because he didn’t believe it was helping.
Deschamps said when Cruz was still living with his mother, she had seen an arsenal of weapons in his room.
“The guns that I observed were not hunting guns,” she said. “They looked like army guns. I saw at least five of them. The guns looked like assault weapons. They were very large. I also saw a large box of bullets.”
Deschamps said she took in Cruz to honor a promise she made to Lynda Cruz before her friend was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and flu in October 2017 and died.
“She was like my mom,” said Deschamps, who took the boys on outings for bowling, boating, the movies, arcades and water parks before their mother’s death.
But Deschamps said eventually her conflicts with Nikolas Cruz led her to conclude she could not have him in her house — if he stayed armed. She said he had to choose between the guns or staying with her family.
“He chose the gun,” she said.
“I could not live in fear in my own home,” she added.
In her comments, she also praised the students leading the charge for gun control after the shooting, saying she hopes elected officials will “listen” to their voices.
She is currently involved in a squabble in Broward court over Nikolas Cruz’s inheritance from his mother. A lawyer representing Nikolas Cruz asked that Deschamps not be appointed to represent the estate, warning of “red flags” about her conduct. The lawyer, Audra Simovitch, resigned from the case last week, court records show. It’s not clear how large the estate is.
Deschamps and her family also took in Cruz’s younger brother, who was arrested Monday for trespassing at Stoneman Douglas.
Zachary Cruz, 18, is being held on a $500,000 bond.