School security monitor recalls encounter with school shooter
An unarmed security monitor in a golf cart was the first person to see Nikolas Cruz step out of an Uber, a large bag in hand, and stride toward Building 12 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High just before the worst school shooting in state history.
Cruz, however, was no stranger to staff.
"Nikolas Cruz. I knew the kid," security guard Andrew Medina told Broward detectives in a sworn video-recorded statement released by prosecutors on Tuesday evening.
As soon as Cruz began walking "like on a mission" toward the building, Medina followed and began frantically texting fellow security guards. "We had a meeting about him last year and we said if there's gonna be anybody whose gonna come to this school and shoot this school up, it's going to be that kid," Medina told detectives on the day of the Feb. 14 shooting.
Cruz had earlier been transferred out of the school because of his behavior.
"He was rebellious, you know ... he had 666 on his book bag. He had the [anti-] Jewish swastika. He had all that crazy stuff. ... All the signs were there, so they, they got rid of him," Medina said.
Medina's testimony to detectives details what became alarmingly clear after the shooting: School officials long knew about Cruz's bouts of rage, obsession with weapons and Nazi imagery and violent outbursts against fellow students. Cruz was also assigned to a controversial program that diverts troubled students to alternative schools over the criminal-justice system — critics contend the program encourages a culture of lax discipline. The Broward County School District says he never showed up for those classes.
Yet, Cruz had avoided any arrests, and despite his history of mental health problems, was able to buy a cache of weapons.
"Just crazy," Medina recalled of Cruz during the teen's time at Parkland. "And we always was watching him, you know. Like, it was one of those kids that we always kept an eye on."
The Broward State Attorney's Office released Medina's statement on Tuesday as part of the ongoing criminal case against Cruz, who fatally shot 17 people and wounded 17 more during the Feb. 14 massacre at the Parkland high school. The video is evidence against Cruz, 19, who faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
The carnage sparked a wave of student activism, changes to Florida's gun laws and scrutiny on the actions of law enforcement during the pivotal first moments of yet another public massacre.
Medina, 39, is a baseball coach and monitor whose chief job is to make sure gates are locked, or opened for dismissal, while watching for intruders or students trying to leave. In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, which obtained a transcript of his statement, Medina last week denied he recognized Cruz or that staff had met about him. That claim is contradicted by the video of his talk with detectives.
After Cruz ran into the building, Medina also told detectives he heard gunshots ring out within moments.
Medina rushed to the campus office, where he summoned school resource officer Scot Peterson. Unsure of what exactly the sounds were, Medina picked up Peterson and the two rushed over to Building 12.
"I heard 15 bangs," Medina said. "And it was loud. Like, you could kind of feel the percussion coming out of that building, the echo coming out of the door of the building. ... It was kind of surreal."
Peterson told him "we got a shooter on, on campus," Medina recalled.
But Peterson, the only armed official on campus at the time, yelled for Medina to return to the front of the school. Peterson has since become the focus of national scorn when the Broward Sheriff's Office revealed that he never entered Building 12 to confront the shooter.
Breaking his silence this week, Peterson insisted he was not sure the gunfire was coming from inside the building — and even shifted the blame toward Medina for not giving him enough details about the shooter. That claim also seems to conflict with Medina's interview with detectives on the day of the shooting.