The 29th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2018 resulted in the deaths of 17 people
Photo courtesy of NBC News | Pictured: 16 of the 17 people who were killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Of those killed, three were faculty and staff, while 14 were students ranging from 14 to 18 years old. Xavier Police Chief Daniel Hect said the shooting was a reminder of the daily threats campuses face.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, made his first appearance in court on Monday in Parkland, Fla. He faces 17 counts of premeditated murder for his Valentine’s Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Of the 17 killed, 14 were students.
Cruz came to his former high school wearing a gas mask, a vest and a “Make America Great Again” hat. In a black duffel bag, he had smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition. He used an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle that he bought legally in February of 2017.
Cruz arrived at Stoneman Douglas in an Uber at about 2:19 p.m. He walked to building 12, which housed mostly freshman classes, and pulled a fire alarm, sending students and teachers into the halls. Then, he walked the hallways from the first to third floors, firing into five classrooms. He discarded his rifle, vest and ammunition in a stairwell and escaped by blending in with students. He was arrested without incident later that day. Cruz admitted to police on Thursday that he was the gunman.
One of the discussions that emerged after the shooting surrounded potential warning signs that went unnoticed.
“Warning signs are present in a large number of these incidents,” criminal justice professor Dr. Cheryl Jonson said. “The shooter in Florida made comments about killing people at the school and the desire to be a professional school shooter in conversations and on social media. The shooter at Virginia Tech wrote a paper in his English class that foreshadowed the events (that) took place a year later and exhibited peculiar behavior at a shooting range. The Columbine shooters had journal entries, posted on chatrooms and made video tapes detailing their plan.”
Cruz has been described by his peers as a ‘troubled’ teen who posted disturbing images on social media. Some posts included images of guns, bullets and a dead frog on Instagram. On YouTube, a user by the name of “nikolas cruz” commented on a video, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
Cruz was expelled from Stoneman Douglas and allegedly stalked one of the girls he killed. A 2016 Florida Department of Children and Families report stated that after breaking up with his girlfriend, Cruz began cutting his arms. The report also stated that he had plans to buy a gun, placed racial slurs and hate symbols on his backpack, and suffered from depression and ADHD and was on the autism spectrum. Despite this, he was considered a low risk case.
Jonson also pointed out that it is important to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly among men, and provide the necessary treatment that is needed for people who are suffering from disorders.
“It is imperative to note that the overwhelmingly majority of people with a mental disorder are not violent and will never engage in this type of behavior,” Jonson said.
The FBI has taken criticism based on missed warning signs. The Bureau said in a statement that “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
The FBI failed to respond to a tip it had received from someone close to Cruz on Jan. 5. The tip provided information about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” The FBI stated that the information should have been assessed as a “potential threat to life.”
Jonson re-emphasized the importance of taking the words and actions of people seriously and reporting them to authorities.
“Just last week, a school shooting was foiled in Washington State where a grandmother found a journal with entries about attacking his school,” Jonson said. “He already had a rifle, materials to make a bomb and detailed plans on how to carry out his attack. Luckily, his grandmother reported him to the police and this is a shooting that we are not talking about today.”
The shooting has drawn strong reactions from across the country. Survivors rallied in support of gun law changes and plan to have nationwide marches, with one on March 24 and another on April 20 for the anniversary of the Columbine shootings. Other groups are also holding similar protests, with organizers of the Women’s March calling for a 17-minute teacher walkout on March 14.
However, Jonson argued that “we need to stop giving excessive attention to shooters in these events?… You often see copycat-type threats or actions follow.” An example that she pointed out was that five different high schools in the Cincinnati area reported similar threats after the Florida shooting.
The Xavier community is also taking the shooting to heart. The Student Government Association (SGA) said in a statement that as a Jesuit university, Xavier stands with the students, faculty and staff of Stoneman Douglas and grieves with them. It also stated that “At Xavier, we remember that only a small percentage of violent acts are committed by those who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for mental illness. As a university, we move away from framing the conversation around violence in the context of mental illness, which only does a disservice to the victims and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness.”
Xavier University Police (XUPD) Chief Daniel Hect spoke about the efforts made to ensure safety on campus.
“Emergency planning is a top priority at Xavier University. The recent tragedies are only a reminder of the threats colleges face every day,” Hect said. “As a university, we will continue to focus on preparedness for active shooter and targeted acts of violent incidents. However, we will also be moving to a layered approach of prevention as well.”
Hect went on to say that the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) in student development reviews concerns about student behavior and looks for indicators of a student who may cause harm to others or themselves. XUPD officers are also attending a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team training to help with identifying subjects who are in distress.
Hect also emphasized the role students can play in prevention efforts:”If you feel someone is in crisis and needs intervention, you as a student can and should tell a professor, RA, police officer or any other trusted professional staff member.”
XUPD is also conducting regular Run Hide Fight training for the Xavier community. If you would like more information on the Run Hide Fight program, contact XUPD or visit xavier.edu/safety.
By: Jack Dunn ~Staff Writer~