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Florida High School Shooting: Assist, Greenwald

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Republic of Florida

COMMENT: In the wake of the Florida high school shooting, an under-reported aspect of the killings concerns accused shooter Nikolas Cruz’s participation (including weapons training and political indoctrination) with the Republic of Florida. The ROF is ” . . . a white supremacist group . . . .” It describes itself:  “. . . .  as a ‘white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics’ and seeks to create a ‘white ethnostate’ in Florida. . . .”

Of particular interest in analysis of the Florida shooting is the advocacy on the part of ROF leader Jordan Jereb for the “lone wolf/leaderless resistance” strategy: ” . . . . A training video the group posted online shows members practicing military maneuvers in camouflage clothing and saluting each other, along with music with the lyric: ‘They call me Nazi / and I’m proud of it.’ In the weeks before the attack, on Gab, a social media network sometimes used by white nationalists, Jereb had recently praised Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik as a ‘hero.’ He also posted a diagrammed strategy for using the Republic of Florida militia to create ‘lone wolf activists.’ . . . .”

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Nikolas Cruz (insert at left)

Several considerations to be weighed in connection with the incident:

 1.  “Florida school shooting suspect linked to white supremacist group: ADL” by Aaron Katersky, Noor Ibrahim, Josh Margolin, Brian Epstein; ABC News; 02/15/2018 [11]

The Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights watchdog, told ABC News they have information they believe to be credible linking Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect, to a white supremacist group called Republic of Florida.The ADL said ROF leader Jordan Jereb told them Cruz was associated with his group. Jereb, who is based in Tallahassee, said Cruz was brought into the group by another member and had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, the ADL said. Law enforcement officials have not confirmed the link.

ROF has mostly young members in north and south Florida and describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.

Three former schoolmates of Cruz told ABC News that Cruz was part of the group. They claimed he marched with the group frequently and was often seen with Jereb, who also confirmed to ABC News that Cruz was, at least at one point, part of that group.

Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not ordered Cruz to take any such action. He told ABC News he has not spoken to Cruz in “some time” but said “he knew he would getting this call.” He would not comment further but emphasized that his group was not a terrorist organization.

Family members, classmates and former friends described Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, as a troubled teen who was largely alone in the world when he allegedly stormed through the school carrying an AR-15 rifle and multiple magazines.

He was able to leave the school after the shooting by blending in with other students who were trying to escape, but he was apprehended shortly thereafter. He has been answering questions from investigators working on the case.

Cruz was adopted as an infant, but he had been living with the family of a classmate after the sudden death of his adoptive mother late last year. His adoptive father died in 2005.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, an attorney for the family that had taken Cruz in for the past few months said Cruz was “depressed” following his mother’s death but he had been going to therapy.

The family is still “shocked,” he said, that Cruz would allegedly engage in mass violence.

“They indicated they saw nothing like this coming,” Lewis said. “They never saw any anger, no bad feelings about the school.”

They were aware that Cruz was in possession of a military-style assault weapon, he said, which two law enforcement officials tell ABC News was legally purchased by Cruz within the past year from a federally licensed dealer. They insisted that it be locked in a safe.

“He brought it into the home and it was in a locked gun safe,” Lewis said. “That was the condition when he came into their home that the gun was locked away.”

Cruz’s former classmates, however, were less surprised.

A student who told ABC News that he participated in Junior ROTC with Cruz described him as a “psycho.” Cruz was a well-known weapons enthusiast, the student said, who once tried to sell knives to a classmate.

Another student told ABC News that before Cruz was expelled from the school he was barred from carrying a backpack on campus. The classmate said the rule was put in place after the school found bullet casings in his bag after a fight with another student.

One student said Cruz even once threatened to “shoot up” the school.

“About a year ago I saw him upset in the morning,” student Brent Black told ABC News. “And I was like, ‘yo what’s wrong with you?’ And he was like ‘umm, don’t know.’ And I was like ‘what’s up with you?’ He’s like ‘I swear to God I’ll shoot up this school.’ And then I was like ‘watch what you’re saying around me,’ and then I just left him after that. He came up to me later on the day and apologized for what he said.”

On Thursday, the FBI issued a statement saying that it was alerted in 2017 to a threat on YouTube by someone who said “I am going to be a school shooter.”

“In September 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel. The comment said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location, or the true identity of the person who posted the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews and other checks, but was unable to further identify the person who posted the comment.”

According to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, investigators have already found some “disturbing” content on social media that could have provided warning signs.

“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on, and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.

The photos posted on an Instagram account law enforcement sources tell ABC News belongs to the suspected shooter shows a young man displaying an arsenal of weapons.

2. “Attorney: Florida shooting suspect is ‘sad, mournful, remorseful’ and ‘a broken human being’” by Matt Pearce, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Jenny Jarvie; The Los Angeles Times; 02/15/2018 [12]

The expelled student accused of killing 17 people at his former South Florida high school is “sad, mournful, remorseful” and “he’s just a broken human being,” one of his attorneys told reporters Thursday.

After a judge ordered Nikolas Cruz, 19, held without bond as he faces 17 counts of premeditated murder, defense attorney Melissa McNeil said that Cruz was “fully aware of what is going on,” but had a troubled background and little personal support in his life before the attack.

Cruz appeared via video, in an orange jumpsuit and with his head slightly bowed, for an initial Broward County court hearing Thursday.

Meanwhile, investigators were scouring Cruz’s social media posts for possible motives or warning signs of the attack. Several social media accounts bearing Cruz’s name revealed a young man fascinated by guns who appeared to signal his intentions to attack a school long before the event.

Nine months ago, a YouTube user with the handle “nikolas cruz” posted a comment on a Discovery UK documentary about the gunman in the 1966 University of Texas shooting that read, “I am going to what he did.”

Other past comments by YouTube users with Cruz’s name reportedly included one remark in September, saying: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” At a news briefing in Florida, Robert Lasky, the FBI special agent in charge, confirmed that the FBI had investigated that comment. But he said the agency couldn’t identify the person in question.

In another post on Instagram, where he posted photos of himself in masks and with guns, Cruz wrote anti-Muslim slurs and apparently mocked the Islamic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means God is greatest.

Confusion also swirled after the leader of a white nationalist militia said that Cruz had trained with his armed group, a claim that drew wide attention but could not be immediately verified.

The leader of the Republic of Florida militia, Jordan Jereb, told researchers at the Anti-Defamation League that Cruz had been “brought up” into the group by one of its members, the ADL said in a blog post. ABC News also claimed to have spoken to three people who verified Cruz’s membership, but some white nationalists expressed concern that the news outlet may have been targeted by a coordinated hoax.

The Republic of Florida calls itself “a white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” on its website, adding that its “current short-term goals are to occupy urban areas to recruit suburban young whites” in pursuit of “the ultimate creation of a white ethnostate.”

A training video the group posted online shows members practicing military maneuvers in camouflage clothing and saluting each other, along with music with the lyric: “They call me Nazi / and I’m proud of it.”

In the weeks before the attack, on Gab, a social media network sometimes used by white nationalists, Jereb had recently praised Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik as a “hero.” He also posted a diagrammed strategy for using the Republic of Florida militia to create “lone wolf activists.”

Jereb later told the Associated Press that he didn’t know Cruz personally and that the group had no knowledge of his plans for the violent attack. “He acted on his own behalf of what he just did, and he’s solely responsible for what he just did,” Jereb said.