A new development has emerged in the ongoing investigation into the school shooting that unfolded in Parkland, Florida on Valentines Day.
According to the Associated Press, some school counselors and officials were so concerned about the mental stability of the shooter Nikolas Cruz, that they decided to have him forcibly committed more than a year before the murders took place on February 14, 2018. But the recommendation was never carried out.
Documents in the criminal case against the 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, show that school officials and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act for at least three days.
The documents show that he had written the word “kill” in a notebook, told a classmate that he wanted to buy a gun and use it, and had cut his arm supposedly in anger because he had broken up with a girlfriend.
Cruz also told another student he had drunk gasoline and was throwing up.
The FBI received calls about about Cruz and his desire to use a gun at the multi-building school.
Such an involuntary commitment would also have been a high obstacle if not a complete barrier to legally obtaining a firearm, such as the AR-15 rifle used in the killings.
There is no evidence Cruz was ever committed.
The school resource officer who recommended that Cruz be “Baker Acted” was Scot Peterson — the same Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred. The accusations were later proven by surveillance video that shows Peterson standing outside the building while Cruz went on his killing rampage.
David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said that an involuntary commitment would have been a huge red flag had Cruz attempted to buy a firearm legally.
The documents do not say why Cruz was not committed under the Baker Act or whether he may not have qualified for other reasons. The law allows a law enforcement officer such as Peterson to initiate commitment under the Baker Act.
Cruz is charged in a 34-count indictment with killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack.
In the Henderson Behavioral Health documents, Cruz’s mother Lynda is quoted as saying she had fresh concerns about her son’s mental state after he punched holes in a wall at their home in Parkland. The clinicians at Henderson came to the home for interviews and said Cruz admitted punching the wall but said he did so because he was upset at a breakup with his girlfriend.
Cruz also admitted cutting his arm with a pencil sharpener.
After a Sept. 28, 2016 interview, the documents say Cruz “reports that he cut his arms 3-4 weeks ago and states that this is the only time he has ever cut. (Cruz) states that he cut because he was lonely, states that he had broken up with his girlfriend and reports that his grades had fallen. (Cruz) states that he is better now, reports that he is no longer lonely and states that his grades have gone back up.”
He also told the clinician he owned only a pellet gun and was not capable of doing “serious harm” to anyone.
The documents show that Cruz was very much on the radar screen of mental health professionals and the Broward County school system, yet very little appears to have been done other than these evaluations.
Other red flags have also surfaced, including calls to the FBI about Cruz’s potential to become a school shooter and numerous visits by county law enforcement officials to his home – both before his mother died in November and after, when he lived briefly with a family friend in Palm Beach County.
Again, very little was done.
It’s not clear from the documents who the recommendation was forwarded to or why it was not followed up.