Florida school shooting: Accused Nikolas Cruz belonged to white nationalist group called 'Republic of Florida'

As the criminal case against the suspect took shape, the leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said Cruz was a member of his group and participated in exercises in Tallahassee.

AP February 16, 2018 07:06:29 IST
Florida school shooting: Accused Nikolas Cruz belonged to white nationalist group called 'Republic of Florida'

Parkland (US): An orphaned 19-year-old who participated in paramilitary drills with a white nationalist group was charged with murder on Thursday in the deaths of 17 people who were fatally shot at a huge Florida high school in the nation's deadliest school attack in five years.

Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the AR-15 rifle used in the assault at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

Florida school shooting Accused Nikolas Cruz belonged to white nationalist group called Republic of Florida

File image of Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz. Reuters

As the criminal case against the suspect took shape, the leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said Cruz was a member of his group and participated in exercises in Tallahassee.

Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press that did not know Cruz personally and that "he acted on his own behalf" and is "solely responsible for what he just did."

The group wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. Jereb said his organization holds "spontaneous random demonstrations" and tries not to participate in the modern world.

He also said Cruz had "trouble with a girl" and that he believed the timing of the attack, on Valentines Day, was not a coincidence.

In a national address from the White House, President Donald Trump said he wanted America's children to know, "You are never alone, and you never will be." He said no child should have to go to school in fear of getting killed. He planned to travel to Florida meet with victims families, explore how to better secure schools and to "tackle the difficult issue of mental health." At no point did Trump mention guns or how to control them.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he wants the Justice Department to study how mental illness affects criminal behavior, to better understand how law enforcement can use existing laws to prevent school shootings.

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