14 December 2018
Through The Eyes of Nikolas Cruz
School shootings have become such an epidemic that most don’t even flinch when they hear of the latest one. It’s come to a point where it is not a question of “what if” but instead a question of “when”. Why do we keep having these senseless shootings? While gun control does in fact play a role, perhaps it goes deeper than that. We’ve seen that most school shooters are depressed, angry, and have rage towards others. Mental illness and childhood traumas are also a common denominator. However, mental illness and childhood trauma does not necessarily equate a school shooter. Regardless of the mental state of Cruz, the crimes are heinous and unacceptable. However, it is essential to understand how massacres like these can occur so we can potentially prevent it. First, we must first review the timeline of the Parkland shooter in an effort to understand what makes a monster using Monster Theory.
The Parkland Shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a problematic adolescent that gave everyone around him grief to the years leading up to the shooting. However, on February 14, 2018, he caused a great deal of grief when he shot up a high school filled with students and faculty. What was supposed to be a day of love and appreciation, ended up being a day of mourning and sadness. Nikolas Cruz claimed the lives of 17 classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High when he decided to go on a vicious rampage. He used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle during the attack and spent about $4,000 on weapons and ammunition leading up to the massacre. A grand jury in Broward County, Florida charged Cruz with 34 counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder.
Most people would agree that the only explanation for such a violent crime is pure evil. But to blame it on evil is naive and there needs to be a deeper understanding of the shooter if we want to make a positive impact to potentially save the lives of our children. To begin with, it is important to understand why he’s considered a monster and what characteristics he possesses that categorizes him as such. Perhaps Jeffrey Cohen’s Monster Theory will be able to give insight as to what makes a monster. In Cohen’s final thesis, “The Monster Stands at the Threshold of Becoming”, he brings attention to the fact that we are the creators of monsters. They make us question why we have created them; how we perceive the world, how we have misinterpreted so that we can reevaluate cultural assumptions about differences such as gender and sexuality.
When analyzing the life of Nikolas Cruz, we’re able to see the connection from his life to Thesis 7 in Monster Theory. It is necessary to understand why he was such a grievance to understand the monster. As mentioned before, Nikolas Cruz was a problematic adolescent that gave everyone around him grief. The question is: why?
Nikolas Jacob Cruz was born in South Florida in 1998. His adoptive mother Lynda awaited his birth in the delivery room. However, by the time he was 3, he was diagnosed with developmental delays. In 2004, he witnessed his father, Roger Cruz, die of a heart attack.Then, in 2012, Cruz receives a suspension for fighting at Westglades Middle School. During that same school year, he accumulated 26 disciplinary incidents at his middle school. The following year, Broward County sheriffs respond to the Cruz’s home after Lynda Cruz reports she was thrown against a wall by 14-year-old Nikolas Cruz for taking away his Xbox. Then in 2014, they transferred Cruz to Cross Creek School for students with emotional or behavioral problems. He attends the school for two years before he’s allowed to enroll in a public high school in the 10th grade. He attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
On February 5, 2016, we get our first warning of a real threat. The Broward County sheriff receives a report whose son said Cruz posted a photo of himself with guns on Instagram, saying he planned to shoot up the school. The information was forwarded to the school resource officer. The following two years are hectic for the Cruz family. On September 28, 2016, it was reported by a counselor that Cruz ingested gasoline in an effort to commit suicide and was cutting himself. About eight hours after this report, sheriffs respond to the Cruz home on grounds that he’s hurting himself and talking about buying a gun. That same day, the state welfare agency opens a case on Cruz citing medical neglect. Their conclusion is that his final level of risk is low. The report states he suffers from depression, ADHD, and autism.
Then in January of 2017, Cruz is reported for assault and referred for a threat assessment. In February of 2017, Cruz leaves his high school and enrolls in an alternative learning program. That same month, he buys an AR-15 used in the shooting from a gun store in Florida. He purchases at least 10 weapons before the shooting. In September of 2017, he leaves a YouTube comment saying he wants to be a school shooter. The poster of the video reports him to the FBI and two agents interview him.
However, it was November 1, 2017, that changed everything. Lynda Cruz, his adoptive mother, dies of pneumonia at age 68. A family friend takes in Nikolas and his brother to her home about 30 miles north of Parkland. Lynda’s cousin advises that Nikolas’ guns be taken away in light of his mother’s death. Police were called 3 times in the month of November. On November 30, 2017, Broward County Sheriff’s office receives a tip that he could become a school shooter. On January 5, 2018, the FBI receives a tip who is worried that Cruz is going to shoot up the school given his gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts. According to a statement released by the FBI, the agency ignores the warning. Consequently, on February 14, 2018, Cruz takes an Uber to school, carrying a black duffle bag and opened fire in the freshman building with an AR-15.
Given the timeline of Nikolas Cruz, it is obvious that his upbringing was everything but normal. Could this be the cause of the school shooting? Perhaps. The Monster Theory states that we are the creators of monsters. It makes us question the world and how we perceive the world. But what if Nikolas Cruz isn’t the monster. I offer a different perspective: what if we’re all the monsters and Nikolas Cruz is not. In the eyes of Nikolas Cruz, the world we lived in was horrendous. He suffered numerous traumatic events throughout his childhood and there was not a single person he could relate to. Thus, everyone was different from him, rather than the opposite of him being different from everyone. This is a point that is made in Monster Theory. Therefore, he questioned the world and how he perceived the world was severely tainted. The traumatic events are an essential element in what caused him to be a monster, but it is not the sole reason the shooting happened. The combination of the mental illness, traumatic events, and severely twisted perspective of the world caused something like this to happen. This is what made the monster known as the Parkland Shooter.
“Red Flags: The Troubled Path of Accused Parkland Shooter Nikolas Cruz.” The Washington Post, WP Company, http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/timeline-parkland-shooter-nikolas-cruz/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.97d70c37e386.
Cohen, Jeffrey. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Englishwithtuttle.com, http://www.englishwithtuttle.com/uploads/3/0/2/6/30266519/cohen_monster_culture__seven_theses__3-20.pdf.