According to the leader of the “Republic of Florida,” (ROF) a white supremacist group, the 19yr-old gunman who killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Nikolas Cruz, was a member of the organization.
Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, which can land him the death penalty, after his massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.
Via The Hill: The group describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics,” according to the ADL. Militia leader Jordan Jereb told the AP that the group wants to create a “white ethno-state” in Florida.
Several people claiming to be members of the militia posted on section of the 4chan forum popular with white supremacists, saying that Cruz was part of the group.
Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not instructed or wanted Cruz to conduct a school shooting. Wednesday’s shooting was the 18th school shooting so far this year, with at least 17 dead and 14 injured.
“He acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did,” Jereb told the AP.
He also stated that Cruz had “trouble with a girl,” recently and suggested the attack might have something to do with Valentine’s Day.
Cruz, who was arrested off of school property, was identified as a former student of the school who had been expelled after bringing ammunition to school in his backpack. He reportedly legally purchased the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting one year ago.
President Trump suggested in a tweet Thursday morning that mental illness was responsible for the shooting, and appeared to suggest that community members could have prevented it by reporting Cruz’s erratic behavior to authorities.
Trump tweeted,“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
However, shortly after the media ran with the story, local law enforcement cast doubt on the accuracy of the claim. The Tallahassee Democrat reports:
Leon County law enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they could not find information linking Cruz, 19, to the Republic of Florida Militia, as claimed by the group’s self-proclaimed leader Jordan Jereb.
Hours after news outlets around the nation reported Cruz’s alleged ties, Leon County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Grady Jordan told the Tallahassee Democrat investigative work did not yield any connections.
“We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” Jordan said.
The Tallahassee Democrat added that Jordan Jereb, the leader of the Republic of Florida Militia, “did not answer repeated phone calls following law enforcement officials saying they found little to lead them to believe Cruz was connected to the organization which has a scant following of around a dozen members.”