Nikolas Cruz, 19, was identified by law-enforcement sources as the suspected gunman who attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
Cruz was taken into police custody following the shooting that killed at least 17 people—leaving traumatized students to recover with their families and grieve for their fallen friends.
The teens who knew Cruz at the school were stunned. They described Cruz as an awkward “outcast”—someone who had trouble fitting in at Douglas High. But they never saw a mass murderer in the making.
“I knew him to be passive aggressive but not violent. He was rude to people. He had an act up like he was tough. He never got into, like, physical fights with anyone, but he did get into verbal arguments,” 17-year-old Ocean Parodie told The Daily Beast. “I just thought he dropped out of school, I didn’t think he would do anything. He always kept a low profile.”
“He was definitely not accepted at our school socially. People saw him as someone who was different than the normal people at our school,” Parodie added.
Douglas High has a place students call “the Emo Gazebo,” he said. “That’s where all the kids that are considered weird or not accepted sat. Kids at the Emo Gazebo didn’t even accept him there. He was just an outcast…He didn’t have any friends.”
Cruz always had his hair short and had a penchant for wearing patriotic shirts that “seemed really extreme, like hating on” Islam, Parodie said. The suspected gunman would also deride Muslims as “terrorists and bombers.”
“I’ve seen him wear a Trump hat,” the student said.
“Most kids ignored him at school. They pushed him off to the side as if he was garbage. He screamed in class one time. He was upset and just started yelling at the teacher. The teacher was trying to help him and he just took it the wrong way,” Parodie continued.
Parodie’s 15-year-old sister, Milan, had a similar impression of Cruz.
“I could tell he tried to be social at times but there was something off about him,” she said. “I never really saw him with many people. Girls thought he was creepy and weird. He was pretty pale with red hair. I didn’t talk to him that much, but from what I could tell he wasn’t a nice kid. He wore a lot of black and was always alone.
Still, Milan Parodie described Cruz as “always enthusiastic… He never seemed depressed or sad. He was always a little crazy is the best way to put it… He was peppy but not in a good way, in a crazy way. He tried to look creepy or weird, I think. He tried to talk to one of my girlfriends and he said she was cute, but she was weirded out and he was bothering her.”
“Honestly, a lot of people were saying that it was gonna be him,” one student told WJXT of Cruz. “Actually, a lot of kids joked… saying that he was gonna be the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out, you know, everyone predicted it, that’s crazy.”
The student added: “He was in the third floor. He knows the school layout, he knows where everyone would be… he’s been in the fire drills. He’s prepared for this stuff.”
Another student told WFOR-TV that Cruz “always had guns on him.”
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SOURCE: The Daily Beast, Taylor Lorenz