Evidence has emerged of links to hate for the gunman who killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida.
On Feb. 14, Cruz used a semiautomatic rifle in a shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz, a former student at the school who was expelled, was in custody. At least five of the victims were Jewish. Two students in a Holocaust history class died, and the shooter aimed his gun at the window and shot into that room, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who is Jewish, said Cruz’s social media posts painted “a very disturbing” picture, CNN reported. Mayor Beam Burr said Cruz “had been dealing with mental health issues.”
In a private Instagram group chat, Cruz repeatedly espoused racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns, according to a CNN report.
Racism was a constant theme in the chat group, according to CNN, which reported that Cruz wrote that he hated “jews, ni**ers, immigrants.”
A white supremacist group told the Anti-Defamation League that the gunman was associated with it. Jordan Jereb, a representative for Republic of Florida, told the ADL that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz had been “brought up” by a member of the organization.
The Republic of Florida “borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (not itself a white supremacist movement),” according to the ADL, and wants to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.
But Jereb has been accused of simply seeking publicity and it has not been confirmed that his group was affiliated with Cruz.
Funerals were held for several Jewish victims of the shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Hundreds of family, friends, students and colleagues attended the funeral on Feb. 18 of teacher Scott Beigel at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, Florida, that was live-streamed on the synagogue’s website.
Beigel, 35, a geography teacher and cross country coach at the school, saved students’ lives by opening his classroom door and ushering the students in. He was shot while closing the door behind them.
He reportedly told his fiance, Gwen Gossler, whom he met at Pennsylvania’s Camp Starlight when they both worked as counselors seven years ago, that if he ever was the victim of a school shooting that she would not talk about the “hero stuff.”
The funerals for first-year students Jamie Guttenberg and Alex Schachter were moved to a Fort Lauderdale hotel to accommodate more than a thousand mourners, according to reports.
The funeral for Alex Schachter, 14, who was a member of his school’s marching band, was closed to media. The Miami Herald reported that remembrances at the funeral “focused on his love for movies, his humor and his passion for the high school’s marching band, in which he played trombone,” as well as the secret ingredients in his special smoothie.
The teen’s family set up a GoFundMe page in his memory to fund a scholarship program to “help other students experience the joys of music” as well as fund increased security at schools.