The family who let the Florida shooter stay in their home after his adopted mother died last year has spoken out about what he was like to live with—and how they wanted to “strangle” him when they saw him after he shot 17 of his schoolmates dead last week.
James and Kimberly Snead invited Nikolas Cruz—a friend of their son—to live their home after his adopted mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia in November of last year. Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday, accompanied by their lawyer, the Sneads described Cruz as “polite” and said he followed house rules “to a T.”
The couple insisted they had no indication that Cruz was planning a mass shooting at his high school and said they were unaware of his sinister Instagram accounts where he posted about his obsession with guns and his fondness for killing animals. The FBI has been heavily criticized for failing to follow up tips about Cruz’s intentions.
Kimberly Snead described the moment she saw Cruz in the police station shortly after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday, saying that she wanted to “strangle” him and that the shooter apologized to her for what he’d done.
“It was at the police station when they were going past us,” said Snead. “I basically went after him, I really wanted to strangle him more than anything and I just... Everything I wanted to say, I tried to reserve myself, but I said ‘really, Nick, really?’ You know, yelled at him.
“[Cruz] mumbled something but I didn’t hear him, he said he was sorry, but I didn’t hear that, I was just furious and heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken and devastated. I still can’t process it, what he’s done, because this isn’t the person that we knew, not at all.”
The couple said they were as shocked as everyone else by reports that Cruz had a disturbing Instagram account in which he posed with guns, smoke grenades, and ammunition. There were further reports that Cruz posted videos of himself killing animals on social media.
“We knew he had one Instagram account, that my son had, I guess that would be the normal one,” said James Snead. “These other Instagram accounts that he had we had no idea about, my son had no idea about. As far as the animal killings, he never did anything like that at our house. We have animals and he loved our animals and our animals loved him.”
Kimberly Snead added: “I’m very much an animal person and anyone who knows me knows that. There’s no way I’d let anyone in my house if I thought he was torturing animals at all. And if we’d known anything about the Instagram accounts—I don’t even know how to use Instagram, I’m old school—but if we’d known anything about that he wouldn’t have even been in our home.”
James Snead, who is also a gun owner, said he tightly restricted Cruz’s access to his guns and that he believed that he was the only one who had a key to the gun cabinet which the couple insisted on buying to be able to control where and when Cruz could use his firearms.
“Before he moved in one of the stipulations was he had to get a gun safe,” James Snead told Good Morning America. “We got a gun safe on the way back from Lantana from moving his stuff to our house. I thought I had the only key to the gun safe.”
He went on: “[Cruz] asked [to access the guns] twice. Once I said yes because he wanted to clean it—I don’t know which one he wanted to clean but he said he wanted to clean a gun and I said OK. Another time he asked and I said no as it wasn’t a good time.”
The couple said there was nothing out of the ordinary about Cruz’s behavior on the day of the shooting except that he didn’t go to school, but he’d told them that he didn’t go to school on Valentine’s Day.
They said they had no plans to see Cruz again, and expressed their sympathy for the families who had lost children or other relatives in the shooting.
“Nothing we can say is going to be any kind of help but we’re very sorry they had this experience and it never should have happened,” said Kimberly Snead. “If we’d known any of the things we’ve been hearing... We’re learning a lot about all of this just the same as everyone else. We feel betrayed as well and just shocked. It’s crushed everybody in our community.”