National News

Accused school gunman made threats, trashed home

Posted February 22, 2018 3:04 p.m. EST

LANTANA, Fla. -- Five days after Thanksgiving, Rocxanne Deschamps called the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, saying a young man who'd been staying at her suburban Lantana mobile home since his mother died had threatened to shoot her 22-year-old son.

The next day, reports show, he punched walls and smashed items at her mobile home and got into a fistfight with the son when the man tried to stop him.

The disturbed house guest was Nikolas Cruz, who is charged with committing one of the biggest school massacres in U.S. history on Valentine's Day in Parkland.

Logs and reports provided by the sheriff's office portray a disturbed and potentially violent 19-year-old who took a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and fired dozens of shots, killing 14 students and three adults and injuring many others.

And recordings from Palm Beach County Sheriff's dispatch show coordination between the two counties as authorities swoop down on the mobile home soon after the shooting.

"This is relative to the active shooter we're working in Parkland," says a Broward Sheriff's Office supervisor, identified as Mitchell.

The PBSO dispatcher, identified as Ashley, responds, "Yes. I'm familiar."

The PBSO reports say that on Nov. 28, Cruz -- whose name is blacked out but who is identified as "a 19YOA male who she was helping out" -- told her he recently had bought a gun at Dick's Sporting Goods and was heading out to pick it up and "tons of ammo."

That would be a gun other than the AR-15, which Cruz bought in February 2017 at a gun shop in Sunrise.

The log entry said the woman advised Cruz "has used a gun against ppl (people) before" and "has put the gun to others' heads in the past."

The log says Cruz then called 911 to say he'd run to the park across from the mobile home, west of town in the Lantana Cascade park off Congress Avenue, and that Deschamps' son, Rock, threatened to "gut him" if he returned to the home.

At about 3 p.m. the next day, Nov. 29, deputies went to the mobile home, where Rock Deschamps told them he and Nikolas got into an argument and Nikolas "began punching walls and breaking items in the home," and punched him in the face when he tried to stop Nikolas, reports show. He said he punched Nikolas back and restrained him but Nikolas broke free and ran from the home.

The deputy said he caught up with Nikolas at the neighborhood park. He said Nikolas "appeared nervous and calm." He said he became upset because he misplaced a picture of his mother who had recently passed away. The deputy said Nikolas told him it was the other man who punched him first, but conceded it was because he was breaking things.

"He said he was sorry for losing his temper," the report said

Deschamps said he didn't want Nikolas arrested but wanted him to stay away from the home until he calmed down. He told the deputy that Nikolas "has been going through a lot with his loss and also have other (redacted.)"

The deputy said the two young men hugged and the deputy left.

A log entry from a few days earlier, on Nov. 24, said Rock had called 911 to say Nikolas might have hidden a gun in the backyard.

A family friend had said Rocxanne Deschamps had given the man an ultimatum: you or the gun. Cruz had moved out soon after that, going to the northern Broward County home of another family. He was living there when he allegedly committed the massacre.

The next PBSO document about the mobile home is from 5:30 p.m. on that day, Feb. 14.

It says the Broward Sheriff's Office had asked its counterpart to send deputies to the home and make contact with Rocxanne Deschamps. It said Rock Deschamps was home with his 5-year-old brother and another person and told deputies his mother was not home.

"All occupants were removed from the residence and the location was secured until the arrival of the PBSO bomb squad and PBSO VCD unit," the report said. "VCD" is the Violent Crimes Division. The report said the occupants were allowed back into the home at 6 a.m. the next day.

A log entry also shows the FBI came to the home as well.

The file of 911 calls in the hours after shooting starts with the Broward sheriff calling PBSO dispatchers to ask the agency to send units to the suburban Lantana mobile home -- which they believe is in Lake Worth -- and look for Rocxanne Deschamps and for Nicholas, who the caller misidentified as the shooter's brother.

The Broward caller asks that PBSO "scoop them up" and bring them to Broward Sheriff's headquarters, saying, "We're trying to get them before the media gets to that 10-20 (location)."

As she's transferring the call, the dispatcher, Ashley, turns to a colleague and says, reflecting a sad lack of surprise, "Of course, the shooter's family lives in our jurisdiction."

A sheriff's supervisor then asks the dispatcher if the people at the home know someone there is the suspected gunman in the Parkland massacre, adding, "I don't want somebody going off on us."

The PBSO commander calls a counterpart in Broward and asks the same question.

"Undoubtedly, yes. They called us and advised," the Broward supervisor says.

The dispatcher later also would call the Lantana Cascade security director to coordinate.

Ashley and a Broward detective then discuss whether the home on Loxahatchee Road where Cruz had been living was in Broward County or Palm Beach, and determine it's in Broward.

Broward also advises four FBI agents are on the way, and adds, "We just want to make sure we don't have additional victims."

Another PBSO report says investigator Kenneth Noel went to the mobile home Friday, two days after the shooting, to assist Broward detectives in interviewing Nikolas' brother, who turned 18 on Wednesday. The Palm Beach Post is not naming the brother.

The brother told investigators that as he drove to the mobile home with Rocxanne on Valentine's Day after the shooting, he said, "I don't want to be alive. I don't want to deal with this stuff."

"(The brother) stated that he does feel somewhat responsible and guilty about the incident and that he could have possibly prevented this. (He) explained that he and his friends, when they were younger, had bullied Nikolas, which he now regrets ever doing. (He) wishes that he had been 'nice' to this brother."

Noel wrote that the brother said Nikolas might have been the more favored of the two.

He said the brother also told investigators he felt as if "someone was trying to get me" and was upset by news reports of the shooting. He said he thought he heard people outside the home talking about it.

Noel wrote that the brother denied wanting either to kill or harm himself, but the detective believed he needed further evaluation.

A family member said that on Friday, authorities removed the brother from the home for a mental-health evaluation under the state's Baker Act, which allows the state to have someone in custody for up to three days.

Noel wrote that the brother "doesn't understand why his brother would have done this" and that "it's not a realistic option to kill people."

The series of 911 calls includes an exchange between Ashley, the dispatcher, and the Broward detective.

The two had realized at the start of the call that they knew each other, and while they had waited for a call to be patched through, Ashley asks the Broward supervisor how things are going in his life.

"Family's good. Can't complain," the supervisor says, adding sadly, "Things could be better now."

Ashley responds, "Yeah, no kidding. Crazy."

Eliot Kleinberg writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: ekleinberg(at)pbpost.com.

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service