February 17, 2018
Parkland, Fla. — A Florida social services agency conducted an in-home investigation of Nikolas Cruz after he exhibited troubling behavior nearly a year and a half before he shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Florida, a state report shows.
The agency, the Florida Department of Children and Families, had been alerted to posts on Snapchat of Mr. Cruz cutting his arms and expressing interest in buying a gun, according to the report. But after visiting and questioning Mr. Cruz at his home, the department determined he was at low risk of harming himself or others.
Florida Agency Investigated Nikolas Cruz After Violent Social Media Posts
The report is the latest indication that Mr. Cruz was repeatedly identified by local and federal agencies as a troubled young man with violent tendencies. The F.B.I. admitted on Friday that it had failed to investigate a tip called into a hotline last month by a person close to Mr. Cruz identifying him as a gun owner intent on killing people, possibly at a school. The local police were called to Mr. Cruz’s house many times for disturbances over several years.
Mr. Cruz also worried officials at his former school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., who on at least one occasion alerted a mobile crisis unit to get him emergency counseling, according to the state report.
Broward County Public Schools disciplinary records obtained on Saturday by The New York Times show Mr. Cruz had a long history of fights with teachers, and was frequently accused of using profane language with school staff. He was referred for a “threat assessment” in January 2017, the last entry in his record, two months after the Department of Children and Families closed its separate investigation into Mr. Cruz’s worrisome behavior.
Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender, whose office is representing Mr. Cruz, said the report was further evidence that Mr. Cruz needed serious help long before the shooting but did not get enough of it.
“This kid exhibited every single known red flag, from killing animals to having a cache of weapons to disruptive behavior to saying he wanted to be a school shooter,” Mr. Finkelstein said. “If this isn’t a person who should have gotten someone’s attention, I don’t know who is. This was a multisystem failure.”
The state agency investigated whether Mr. Cruz intended to harm himself in September 2016, when he made the alarming social media posts after an argument with his mother. Mr. Cruz, who had depression, was upset over a breakup with a girlfriend, his mother, Lynda Cruz, told investigators. The report does not say who called in the complaint, which was given “immediate” priority.
The report shows that investigators closed the case about two months later. The agency determined that the “final level of risk is low” — an analysis that one of Mr. Cruz’s counselors at his school felt was premature — because his mother was caring for him, he was enrolled in school and he was receiving counseling. By the time of the shooting, however, Mr. Cruz had lost at least two of those elements: His mother was dead, and he had left Stoneman Douglas High School. It is unclear if he was still seeing a counselor.
On Wednesday, Mr. Cruz, 19, showed up at Stoneman Douglas and unleashed more than 100 rounds from a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle he purchased last February, five months after the state investigation closed. As of Saturday evening, two Broward hospitals were still treating four patients in fair condition, according to Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman.
The office of Mr. Finkelstein, the public defender, suggested that it had offered prosecutors a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“Everybody knows he is guilty. What we are saying is, let’s put him away for life,” Mr. Finkelstein said. “We are not saying the death penalty is not justified; we are saying, let’s not put this community through the trauma and pain of a trial knowing that, three years down the road, one juror could keep him from being put to death.”
In Florida, the death penalty requires a decision by a unanimous jury.
Michael J. Satz, the state attorney, said prosecutors would announce their position on the death penalty “at the appropriate time.”
“This certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for,” Mr. Satz said in a statement. “This was a highly calculated and premeditated murder of 17 people and the attempted murder of everyone in that school.”
Mr. Cruz’s school disciplinary records show he attended at least six schools, including Cross Creek School, a school for students with emotional problems; Dave Thomas Education Center, an alternative high school for at-risk youth; and an adult education center. He was first identified as developmentally delayed in 2002, when he was 4 years old.
In incidents that began in 2012, when Mr. Cruz was 13, he was disciplined for being disobedient and unruly. In 2013, the records suggest, he was counseled for making a false 911 call.
He was suspended several times in the 2016-17 school year, his last year at Stoneman Douglas, and was frequently reported for prolonged and unexplained absences. In September 2016, he was suspended for two days for fighting, only to return and get suspended again nine days after the fight, this time for hurling profane insults.
That same month, the Department of Children and Families began its investigation into Mr. Cruz. The investigation, first reported by The Sun-Sentinel of South Florida on Friday, was obtained by The Times on Saturday. The state agency had petitioned a court on Friday to make the confidential records public, but the court has yet to do so.
“Mental health services and supports were in place when this investigation closed,” Mike Carroll, the secretary of the Department of Children and Families, said in a statement. Mr. Cruz was investigated as an adult, and the investigation appeared aimed at determining whether he was being neglected.
Agency investigators identified Mr. Cruz, who had turned 18 a few days earlier, as a “vulnerable adult due to mental illness.” In addition to depression, Mr. Cruz had autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the report said. He was regularly taking medication for the A.D.H.D. It was unclear whether he was taking anything for the depression, according to the report.
After the argument with his mother, an investigator visited the family’s home in Parkland, which was clean, clutter-free and did not present any foul odors. The investigator did not see the cuts on Mr. Cruz’s arms: He was wearing long sleeves.
“Mr. Cruz stated that he plans to go out and buy a gun,” the report states. “It is unknown what he is buying the gun for.”
His mother denied that she and her son had argued. She told the investigator that Mr. Cruz did not have a gun, though he did have an air gun she would take away from him when he did not follow rules about shooting only at backyard targets.
His mother, who died in November, told investigators she attributed Mr. Cruz’s behavior to “a breakup with a girl.” Ms. Cruz “stated that she and the girl’s mother told the kids they had to end the relationship because it was unhealthy for everyone,” the report said. Neither the girl nor her mother are named in the report.
A year before, it was discovered that Mr. Cruz had a Nazi symbol and a racial slur on his book bag. His mother said that when she confronted her son about it, Mr. Cruz purported to not know what the sign meant, and she said the family had never expressed negative sentiments toward people of other races. She made him clean it off his bag.
The report noted that a mental health center had been contacted in the past to detain Mr. Cruz under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows the state to hospitalize people for several days if they are a threat to themselves or others. The center determined that he was not such a threat. Had Mr. Cruz been involuntarily committed, state law could have prohibited him from buying a firearm.
The mental health counselor, from Henderson Behavioral Health, had also visited Mr. Cruz at home and had him sign a safety contract.
Despite the assessment, a school counselor remained concerned.
“She said Henderson found him stable enough not to be hospitalized,” the Department of Children and Families investigator wrote of the school counselor. “She stated that the concern she and the other staff had was to ensure that the assessment of Henderson was not premature.”
Henderson Behavioral Health would not comment on Saturday. Neither the mental health counselor nor the school counselor could be reached.
According to the report, investigators also tried to speak to a school police officer, who declined to cooperate.
The Department of Children and Families would have had no way to know if Mr. Cruz’s behavior became more erratic after losing his mother because the agency is not automatically notified of a caretaker’s death, said George Sheldon, a former department secretary.
“It’s hard to second-guess because we don’t know everything that the department knew at the time, but clearly this young man was showing serious signs of a mental health disorder, something that does not pop up overnight,” said Mr. Sheldon, who left the department in 2011 and now oversees a nonprofit foster-care agency in Miami. “He was troubled and about to explode. And the results were devastating.”
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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