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Students: Shooting suspect harassed peers, bragged about gun

AP  |  Parkland 

Students and neighbours describe the suspect in the deadly rampage at a high school as a troubled teenager who threatened and harassed peers, talked about killing animals, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media, and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a gun.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been expelled from Douglas High School for "disciplinary reasons," County said, but he insisted he didn't know the specifics.

told that before Wednesday's fatal shooting of 17 people, Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat - Gard believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn't be allowed on campus with a backpack.

"There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus," Gard told the paper.

Student Victoria Olvera, 17, said Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend. He'd been attending another school in County since the expulsion, school officials said.

Cruz was an orphan his mother, died of pneumonia on November 1 neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in to County.

The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said.

Unhappy there, asked to move in with a friend's family in northwest Broward. The family agreed, and Cruz moved in around

According to Jim Lewis, who represents but did not identify the family, they knew that Cruz owned the but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet and never saw him go to a shooting range with it. He did have the key, however.

Cruz legally purchased the assault weapon about a year ago, a with the investigation but not authorized to discuss it publicly told on condition of anonymity.

The family is devastated and shocked, Lewis said. During the three months Cruz lived there, he was respectful and quiet but also sad over his mother's death, Lewis told The AP.

"No indication that anything severe like this was wrong," Lewis said. "Just a mildly troubled kid who'd lost his mom. ... He totally kept this from everybody."

Lewis said the family is cooperating as their home is searched and that no one there is suspected of wrongdoing.

Longtime Cruz family neighbors Malcolm and told the that the police came to the boy's house many times, as he used to get in trouble and harass people. said a neighbor across the street kept pigs, and targeted the family.

"He didn't like the pigs and didn't like the neighbours, so he sent over his dog over there to try to attack them," Roxburgh said.

His wife said she once caught Nikolas peeking in her window.

"I said, 'What are you doing here?' He said he was looking for golf balls. I said, 'This isn't the golf course,'" she said.

And, the couple said, when the boy didn't want to go to school, he would bang his head against a They were scared of him. "He could have killed any of us," said.

Cruz was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but hadn't been there for more than a year, said during an interview with

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 15 2018. 20:15 IST