This page is reserved for commentary on timely topics—including religion, politics and societal trends— with special emphasis on Essential Value and Individual Freedom.   Respond to: hampday1@verizon.net.

School shootings have become the norm in American culture, with nearly 300 occurring in the United States since 2013.  When tragedies such as these strike, the issue of gun control and Second Amendment rights become almost as prevalent as the bereavement for the victims and their families.  Since the American political climate is more volatile than ever, an outpouring of grief is soon coupled with seething anger from everywhere on the political spectrum.  And for good reason—no innocent person deserves to lose their life so soon, and so violently.

Regardless of what opinion one has on the gun debate and the Second Amendment, every decent human knows that the events that happened in Parkland, Florida should never have happened.  Now more than ever, American safety standards need to change.  Large schools in urban populations must provide armed guard protection.  And the political connotation of public security must change as well.

It may seem insensitive to continue political conflict during such a trying time.  But if this shootingthe eighth in the first seven weeks of 2018shows anything, it's that politics does not simply mean partisan conflict.  The most effective way to create widespread social change in America is creating policy through the legislative system.  Educating ourselves on gun violence statistics or issues, contacting congressmen and sparking conversation is the prudent way to prevent school shootings from becoming commonplace.

Make sure the Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School shooting will not be forgotten anytime soon.  Elie Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference."  Be indifferent no longer—lives depend on it.  Scenes from the Douglas High School massacre have been TV fare since the Valentine's Day shooting.  This week Brianna Sacks of BuzzFeed News fills in the details of this tragedy, including predatory warnings that went unheeded.  We'd like to hear your reaction, at hampday1@verizon.net.

--HP   

--HP 

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This Is What We Know About Nikolas Cruz

by  Brianna Sacks*  [Posted 2/15/18]

 

The man suspected of opening fire at a South Florida high school on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, had previously been identified as a potential threat to fellow students and "talked about guns a lot," a teacher and a former classmate said.

Officials identified the suspect in the shooting as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student who was expelled for disciplinary reasons from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the shooting took place.  He was charged on Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder.  It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

Cruz was currently enrolled at another school in the Broward County Public School District, Superintendent Robert Runcie said late Wednesday night.

At around 2:30 p.m., he arrived at the school armed with a semiautomatic rifle and opened fire, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.  At least 17 people, including students and teachers, died.

After firing into classrooms, Cruz was able to conceal himself in the hordes of frantic students fleeing the school, officials said.

Nearly two hours later, Coconut Creek Police found Cruz in a nearby neighborhood in Coral Springs, and took him into custody, then to a local hospital for "labored breathing," the Broward County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday night.

The 19-year-old had been armed with one AR-15style rifle and "countless magazines" of ammunition, Israel said Wednesday.  According to the Associated Press, he was also equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades and set off a fire alarm to bring crowds of students out of their classrooms and into hallways.

Cruz had legally purchased the rifle about a year ago, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press on Thursday.  Last September, he left this boast on one of his videos: "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."  The FBI released a statement acknowledging that, once again, a murderer had slipped through their investigative channels.

Authorities have not yet determined a motive for the shooting, but Israel said that they were learning more about Cruz through his online accounts.

"We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on, and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing," the sheriff said Wednesday.

Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, told the Miami Herald that Cruz had previously been identified as a potential threat to other students.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard said.  “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

Gard told CNN that he taught Cruz for a semester in 2016 and described him as a "quiet kid" he "never had any problems with."  But the teacher recalled female students in his class who said Cruz had "problems with other girls."

Cruz's former classmates described him as a "loner" who was obsessed with weapons and "into weird stuff."

"He used to tell me he would shoot rats with his BB gun and he wanted this kind of gun, and how he liked to always shoot for practice," 16-year-old Joshua Charo, who went to school with Cruz, told the Miami Herald.

An Instagram account, which several students confirmed to the Herald as belonging to Cruz, shows a teen often clad in black with his face covered.  In some photos, he is seen sporting a US Army hat and wielding weapons.  The account has since been deleted.

In one post, he shared an online ad for a Maverick 88 Slug shotgun.  Another showed a bullet-riddled target with the caption "Group Therapy."  The post before that one showed a Google search for "Allahu Akbar."

Giovonni Watford, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, told BuzzFeed News he was in the same Junior ROTC program as Cruz, and described him as "a sketchy kid."

"He was off," Watford said.  "He was super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face."  Watford added that Cruz complained often about bullying on campus and "had beef with one kid."

Watford's older brother, Mike, who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2016, told BuzzFeed News that Cruz often said "how tired he was of everyone picking on him and the staff doing nothing about it."

"Something definitely pushed him," Mike Watford said.

Another student at the high school told WJXT that "everyone predicted" something like the shooting and "threw jokes around like that, saying that he's the one to shoot up the school."

"He was on the third floor, he knows the school layout.  He knows where everyone would be.  He’s been in fire drillshe’s prepared for this stuff," the teen said.

A family member told ABC News that Cruz and his younger brother were adopted and that his adoptive parents are now dead.  His father, Roger Cruz, died a few years ago, ABC reported, and his mother, Lynda, died in November.

Family members told the Orlando Sentinel that Cruz had emotional problems and other issues growing up, and said that his mother tried her best to get him counseling and help after his father died.

"He was being a problem.  I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication.  [He] did have some kind of emotional difficulties," Barbara Kumbatovich, a relative, told the paper.  "[Lynda] kept a really close handle on both boys.  They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do, like not coming home on time ...maybe being disrespectful."

Christine and Malcolm Roxburgh, who lived next door to the Cruz family in Parkland, also told the Sentinel that police had been called to the home "many times."

Victoria Olvera, a junior, told the Associated Press that Cruz was expelled last school year after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend.  The 17-year-old said that Cruz was abusive while he and his ex-girlfriend were together.

After their mother died, the brothers were left in the care of a family friend in Palm Beach County, Kumbatovich told the Sentinel.  According to Jim Lewis, an attorney representing that family, however, Cruz was unhappy living there and asked a former school friend from Stoneman Douglas if he could stay with their family.

“The family is devastated; they didn’t see this coming.  They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished,” Lewis said.  “He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”

  


*Brianna Sacks is a reporter for BuzzFeed News based in Los Angeles.  This report was posted Thursday, February 15, 2018 @buzzfeed.com  

 

 

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