Jim Gard, a math teacher at Douglas High School, said in an interview that Mr. Cruz was a student in his class during the first semester of the 2016-17 school year. In the class, he was quiet and not disruptive, Mr. Gard said.
But he recalled that school administrators became concerned last year about Mr. Cruz’s behavior and alerted the faculty. “We received emails about him from the administration,” Mr. Gard said in an interview, adding that he did not recall the specific issues.
After the shooting on Wednesday, Mr. Gard said that several students told him that Mr. Cruz was taken with a girl at Douglas High School “to the point of stalking her.”
In the interview with the Miami news station, the student said Mr. Cruz was a junior at Douglas High School when he was expelled last year. He said that students would joke that if anyone were to open fire inside the school, it would be Mr. Cruz. Because of that, students feared him and mostly stayed away from him, the student said.
“A lot of people were saying that it would be him,” the student told WFOR-TV. “They would say he would be the one to shoot up the school. Everyone predicted it.”
Helen Pasciolla, who is retired, lives on an elegant street in the Pine Tree Estates development in Parkland, three houses down and across from where the Cruz family resided until about a year ago. Ms. Pasciolla said that Mr. Cruz told her that the family had to move out of their one-story beige house and sell it because they could no longer afford it.
She said that Mr. Cruz has a brother, Zachary, and that both boys were adopted. Their adoptive father died some years ago, she added.
Ms. Pasciolla said that the boys’ mother, Lynda Cruz, had regular problems with their behavior. On occasion, she said, the mother would resort to calling the police to have them come over to try to talk some sense into her sons.
“I think she wanted to scare them a little bit,” Ms. Pasciolla said. “Nikolas has behavioral problems, I think, but I never thought he would be violent.”
When she saw his picture on TV on Wednesday after the shooting, Ms. Pasciolla said that she thought to herself, “Oh, my God, that’s the kid who lived down the street.”
Sheriff Israel said that the authorities did not yet know the motive for the killing, but were learning more about Mr. Cruz through his social media pages, which he described as “very, very concerning.”
Screen shots of an Instagram page said to belong to Mr. Cruz show many photos of a man holding firearms and ammunition used in a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. One photo shows several guns, including rifles with scopes, laying on a bed. Another appears to show a frog that had been killed.
After Mr. Cruz left Douglas High School, he took a job at a Dollar Tree store about a mile and a half from the school. A person who answered the phone at the store on Wednesday evening said that Mr. Cruz worked as a cashier and was well liked by his colleagues.
“He was a great guy,” the person said.
He added that he last saw Mr. Cruz about a year ago before he transferred to another Dollar Tree store closer to his home.
Another student at Douglas High School, Ocean Parodie, told The Daily Beast that he visited the store after Mr. Cruz was expelled to check on him. “He said he was expelled and was happy that he was thrown out,” Mr. Parodie said. “I felt bad for him.”
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