Sign up below to be added to our mailing list for the latest news updates, access to exclusive contents, and more!
The lawyer for a South Florida family that took in accused Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz provided The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday with chilling details about texts between Cruz and the family’s teenage son in the minutes before Cruz opened fire.
Attorney Jim Lewis’ comments came on the day a grand jury formally indicted Cruz on 34 counts, including 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder in the injuries to 17 others.
Cruz’s lawyers said he confessed to the shootings at the school.
Cruz was living with the Snead family in Parkland when he killed the 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
Snead family attorney Jim Lewis told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday:
• Cruz texted the Sneads' teenage son, who was in class at Douglas, around 2 p.m., about 20 minutes before the shooting began. Cruz asked what class the son was in and who the teacher was. The son said the teacher was one of the coaches. Cruz texted the son to ask the coach if he remembered Cruz. The coach was not one of the people Cruz shot.
• Minutes later, Cruz texted to say he was going to a movie. Lewis said he then "made some kind of comment that, 'I've got something big to tell you.'" When the son pressed him, Cruz texted, "no big deal. Nothing bad."
• Lewis said the texting stopped at 2:18 p.m. The last text was a single word: "Yo." The Snead teen texted back several times without a response. Then, the shooting started.
Lewis said in the days before the shooting, "There was nothing to give any clue that this was about to happen.
“No bad feelings about anybody's school. No bad feelings about Douglas in general."
Authorities have said that, after the November pneumonia death of Cruz’s mother left Cruz and his younger brother, Zachary, orphaned, the two moved to the suburban Lantana home of family friend Roxanne Deschamps.
When Deschamps told Cruz he could stay only if he got rid of his guns, Cruz moved in with the Sneads in late November.
Six weeks before the shooting, Lewis said, James Snead had asked Douglas officials if Cruz, who had been expelled, could re-enroll. They said no.
It was James Snead who got a text minutes into the rampage from his son, saying there'd been a shooting at the school. The father was on the way to school to pick up the teen. The son "called back and said people were saying it was Nik. That's when the father freaked out," Lewis said.
Around that time, Lewis said, a Broward County Sheriff's Office commander called James Snead to ask if he had a son named Nik.
Snead explained Cruz wasn't related, but was living at the house.
A short time later, Snead called the commander back to say he was worried because his wife, who's a night nurse, was asleep at the home on Loxahatchee Road. Soon deputies were swarming the home. Snead’s wife was unharmed.
Lewis said Cruz had no contact with the family after that last text message, "Yo," until the family saw him later that night. They'd come down to make a statement to Broward County sheriff’s investigators and saw Cruz through a window.
"That's when Nik mouthed the words to them; 'I'm sorry.'"