The leader of a Florida white-supremacist militia has told the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, trained with the group. A Members of the white-nationalist Republic of Florida came forward on the message-board website 4chan last night and reported that Cruz had trained with them. Today the ADL says it spoke with the group's leader, Jordan Jereb of Tallahassee, who confirmed Cruz had trained with his organization at one point:
Jereb said that Cruz was associated with ROF, having been “brought up” by another member. Jereb added that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from South Florida.
Authorities, however, have not been able to find hard evidence linking Cruz to the group, and Jereb himself has since tried to walk back his claim online, calling it a "prank." Other 4chan users have also referred to the claim as a hoax, and white-supremacist-monitoring groups that follow Jereb have warned that he often makes outlandish claims in order to seek attention.
Jereb, who was himself arrested in 2016 for allegedly threatening a staffer in Gov. Rick Scott's office, said the group did not instruct or encourage Cruz to carry out the shooting yesterday. Users on 4chan have posted photographs that appear to show Cruz holding a Republic of Florida flag — the man in the photographs does not show his face, however. (4chan users also love hoaxing people, and other comments in the thread clearly show incorrect suspects.)
The Daily Beast also reached Jereb this afternoon. The fascist leader told the news site that someone from the group actually bought Cruz a bolt-action rifle, which was not the weapon police say he used yesterday.
"He probably used that training to do what he did yesterday," Jereb told the Daily Beast.
However, local law-enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they have so far not been able to find hard evidence linking the Republic of Florida and Cruz — it's possible that Jereb could be taking credit for the attack to drum up publicity for his militia. Terrorist networks such as ISIS are known to do this.
Since telling multiple news outlets that Cruz trained with ROF, Jereb has started walking his claims back, so it's hard for outside observers to even guess what's true at this point. It's unclear whether Jereb's initial statements were lies or if he's now trying to throw law-enforcement investigators off trail:
But Cruz's own social media posts certainly show he was bigoted to some degree. He used the ethnic slur "sand
It now appears that state and federal officials missed a massive field of red flags leading up to the shooting. Cruz apparently frightened Stoneman Douglas students and teachers so much that he was reportedly barred from bringing a backpack to school for fear he would carry weapons inside. He posted images of himself mutilating animals and posing with rifles, pellet guns, and knives. He was expelled from school for disciplinary issues. He was even also reportedly accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend — domestic abuse is a key warning sign of future violence and appears to be common among mass shooters.
Someone apparently even warned the FBI last September that a YouTube user with Cruz's name had threatened to commit a school shooting — but officials say they do not believe the shooting had any sort of ideological bent. The ADL's latest confirmation will surely change things. (Absent larger evidence, it is also possible, however, that the Republic of Florida could be taking credit for grooming Cruz simply to boost its platform.)
As the ADL also noted today, yesterday's carnage marks the second school shooting carried out by someone with white-supremacist leanings in the past 60 days. After William Edward Atchison fatally shot two people and then himself at Aztec High School in New Mexico in December, the Daily Beast noted Atchison was a regular poster on the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer as well as other white-supremacist sites. The ADL separately released a report in January that noted white-supremacist murders doubled in 2017 (there were 18) and eclipsed those committed by any other extremist group on U.S. soil.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation's premier hate-group-tracking organization, also released a series this month titled The Alt-Right Is Killing People, which traced more than 100 deaths to alt-right sympathizers since 2014.
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The Republic of Florida has staged a series of demonstrations in Tallahassee over the past few years. In 2015, the group joined the white-supremacist League of the South at a demonstration at Florida State University. The Republic teamed up with the League of the South's Florida leader, Michael Tubbs, a former Ku Klux Klansman who stole weapons and explosives for the Klan from the U.S. Army in 1987. (The groups protested a student group that had burned a Confederate flag.)
According to the group's WordPress website, the Republic of Florida wants the South to secede and create a "white
This post has been updated.