Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s police interrogation
The morning routine for most public-school students consists of picking out which clothes to wear, maybe grabbing a bite to eat and heading to campus.
For Nikolas Cruz, the confessed Parkland gunman, that regimen included a daily frisking from a security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The administration had already barred him from bringing a book bag to school after he brought bullets to school.
Cruz, now 20, was considered enough of a threat that a security guard was assigned to search him every day for weapons, according to Kelvin Greenleaf, who worked at the school while Cruz attended there.
“I think we got concerned when I think we found out he drank bleach, tried to hurt himself or something like that, the kid,” he said in a sworn deposition on July 11, as first reported by the Sun Sentinel. “That’s when we started like having the kid come in every morning to be searched by me, but never found a weapon on the kid, never.”
The Miami Herald acquired a transcript of the testimony on Friday. It was taken as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed against former Broward Sheriff’s Office school resource officer Scot Peterson, who was roundly criticized for his inaction during the February 2018 mass shooting at the school.
Cruz killed 17 students and faculty members, including 18-year-old Meadow Pollack.
“They’re gonna say they didn’t know this kid was a threat and yet they’re frisking him every day before school,” said Andrew Pollack, Meadow’s father, who filed the lawsuit in Broward County Circuit Court.
Pollack is also suing the sheriff’s office and the county school district. A spokeswoman for the school district did not respond to a media request Friday, as the public relations office was closed.
Cruz attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2016 and 2017 before being transferred to an Off Campus Learning Center. Diagnosed with autism, Cruz was considered a special-education student and was not legally allowed to be expelled.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in his case. He was indicted on 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree.
In his deposition, Greenleaf described Cruz as a loner and a prankster who was “different” from the other kids at school.
“He’s different, yes. And that’s what all the complaint was about, he acts weird,” Greenleaf said. “But you can’t punish a kid because he acts different. You know, there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Greenleaf didn’t think Cruz was capable of killing scores of students. But his colleagues did. In the testimony, Greenleaf described a meeting with security personnel that included mention of Cruz as a possible school shooter.
“They were laughing about it, so I don’t know how serious they were, but it turned out they were right,” he said.
He became emotional during his deposition and, at certain moments, cried.
An internal report issued by Broward County Public Schools last year said the district did little wrong in its handling of Cruz’s time at the high school.
But David Brill, an attorney representing Pollack in the lawsuit, said Greenleaf’s testimony serves to bolster their case against the school district. Cruz’s own public defenders called the district’s report a “whitewash” and full of “misinformation.”
“It’s just yet another proverbial shoe dropping,” Brill said in an interview. “One negligent or worse conduct after another. It’s just rapid fire. And what it says is that they knew what an enormous risk this kid posed to the welfare of everybody at that school for a very, very long time and did not warn anyone.”
Cruz’s behavior concerned school administration. In the fall of 2016, a guidance counselor became worried that Cruz wanted to buy a gun. He told a classmate he ingested gasoline. He cut himself with a pencil sharpener and wrote the word “kill” in a school notebook.
Despite this, he was never involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment, which could have prevented him from buying the assault-style rifle he would eventually use to carry out the school shooting.
“Because when you look at it, I’ve seen kids who didn’t act like Nikolas Cruz shoot up schools. So it’s kind of, I don’t try to like label my kids,” Greenleaf said. “I know he was different. Yeah, we watched him and, you know, we knew we was going to get complaints on him. We knew that. And that’s why we kept such a close eye on him while he was there assigned to our school.”