The senseless violence that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida is now two years in the past. However, victims’ families are still feeling the repercussions of the horrific event. This week, the foster parents who were taking care of the shooter at the time of the incident have apologized for ignoring numerous warning signs, including the boy’s fascination with guns. The apology comes as part of a settlement in several negligence suits Parkland parents have filed against the couple.
A week after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz committed one of the worst school shootings in history, his foster father, James Snead, appeared on Good Morning America. He said the teen was “polite” and “seemed normal.”
“Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” Snead said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
However, the new apology letter released on July 28 by the newspaper finds Snead and his wife, Kimberly, admitting they were warned several times of Cruz’s troubled history and behavioral issues.
“We thought we could handle this troubled young man, unfortunately, we were wrong,” the letter read.
Cruz had come to live with the Sneads as an orphan. His father, Roger Cruz, had died of a heart attack in the boy’s presence when he was just 5. The event seemed to affect him profoundly; a pattern of violent and disruptive behavior emerged in the following years. His mother reportedly called the cops multiple times reporting violent outbursts, and eventually placed him in a school for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Matters worsened when Cruz’s mother died from pneumonia in 2017. Following the tragic loss, he went to live with Rocxanne Deschamps, a former neighbor.
The arrangement ended quickly due to Cruz’s erratic behavior. Not only did he get in physical fights with Deschamps’ family, but he insisted on keeping a collection of guns in the house, against his new guardian’s objections.
“He was just somebody I took in because his mother passed away,” Deschamps reportedly said in a 911 call after Cruz became violent and threatened her with a gun. “That’s all he wants is his gun and that’s all he cares about is his gun.”
Following his stay with Deschamps, Cruz went to stay with the Sneads, where things seemed to run smoother. The couple said Cruz followed the rules of their household and even got a job at a local Dollar Tree.
The Sneads also let Cruz keep his collection of guns and knives, with the caveat that they remained in a locked cabinet.
“We were particularly wrong to allow him to store his firearms in our house, including the AR-15 used in this tragedy,” the Sneads’ apology read. “We believed the firearms were secured in a gun safe under lock and key. We believed we had the only key, yet, somehow Nikolas Cruz was able to access the AR-15 before he attacked Stoneman Douglas.”
In the weeks preceding the attack, Deschamps tried to warn the Sneads about Cruz, the letter says.
“Ms. Deschamps informed us of warning signs of his behavior, which occurred in her home, and that he had chosen to keep his rifle over continuing to live with her,” the letter read.
They also received warnings from Kathy Blaine, a cousin of Cruz’s mother who lives in New York.
“Kathy Blaine informed us that Nikolas Cruz was violent, dangerous, infatuated with guns and knives, untrustworthy, and threatened to kill people on Instagram, among other things,” read the statement.
Reached for comment by the Sun-Sentinel, Blaine criticized the couple.
“I blame them for not listening to me; that’s what I blame them for,” she said. “Why the hell didn’t you listen to Rocxanne and me, to get the guns away from him?”
Parent Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the shooting, also expressed dissatisfaction with the pair’s apology. The father told the Sun-Sentinel that he and other families of victims had to push the Sneads to make the statement.
“They didn’t want to accept accountability, and we forced it on them,” he said. “For us, that’s why we’re here. We want accountability.”
In addition to the apology, the legal agreement compels the Sneads to pay a monetary settlement to the victims. It also bars them and their attorney from speaking about the incident or profiting from the story in any way.
“We want people to learn from our mistakes and experience,” the Sneads’ letter said. “Before considering bringing a troubled young person (particularly a teen) into your home, you should consider your safety, the safety of your family, and the safety of the community at large.”
Parkland Shooter Parents — Sources
New York Post
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – “A lost and lonely killer”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – “Parkland couple apologizes for taking in school shooter”