He was deeply isolated from the world, scored below 100 on IQ tests, was listed as developmentally delayed, and was diagnosed with ADHD, but newly released personal writings show that 20-year-old Parkland mass murderer Nikolas Cruz has mastered the talking points of President Donald Trump.
Before Cruz used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 17 people, including 13 students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we knew he idolized Trump. One of his most prized possessions was a MAGA hat; the rage-filled, paranoid teen posed with it on his head for Instagram and wore it while he practiced shooting a pellet gun in his backyard. He even put the red hat on his mother's urn during her funeral. A day trip to Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach was like going to "Disneyland" for him, according to published reports.
We also knew he was rabidly racist and anti-Semitic, writing unambiguously on social media: "I hate Jews, ni**ers, immigrants." He proudly displayed swastikas on his book bag and etched the Nazi symbols on ammo magazines he used during the massacre.
But in a batch of jailhouse letters released Monday, Cruz expounds more on politics than we've seen to date — and the letters show the unhinged killer remains deeply drawn to Trump's divisive and negative political messaging, which takes aim at immigrants, liberals, and the media. Cruz seems to have taken especially seriously Trump's unfounded allegations that illegal immigrants threaten American society and are more prone than others to crime.
"I feel like there is a reason why we're trying to stop immigrants," Cruz writes. "They attack people, destroy property and spread disease. It's a big issue. I'm waiting for the moment when society collapses because of one of these issues."
That quote and all others in this story have been edited to make them understandable, because Cruz's writing is rife with misspellings and grammatical errors. It is also festooned with crude stick figures that look as if they were drawn by a first-grader. All of the letters are addressed to a pen pal and romantic interest named Miley, who lives in the United Kingdom.
"What is the news like over there?" he asks her in one letter. "Is it like here with a bunch of lies, or are they honest? Please let me know."
Even after the shooting, Cruz remains a rabid gun enthusiast. He writes he would love to have children and would name the boys "Kalashnikov, Makarov, and Remington," all gun makes.
"I'm a huge Second Amendment supporter even though I'm here in jail for being on the wrong side of the law," Cruz wrote. "I still believe it's a special right to have, and I try to encourage everyone, including you, to take part in it."
Cruz also wrote of his fear that liberals would strip him of his rights. Though he doesn't mention Trump by name in the letters, he writes plenty about Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican governor who at the time was campaigning with an overtly Trumpian message.
"I can't spell his name, but I know he's Republican and I'm voting for him," Cruz wrote. "I believe if we get a
Democratic governor, he will take away our rights, and I don't want that to happen, so please pray that Ron wins... Election Day is one day away, and I'm hoping to God Ron DeSantis wins. I really want him to win; also, all the other states I hope Republicans win. I am really praying for them to win because I really feel that everyone will lose their rights if Democrats win."
Cruz exhibited more excitement for Election Day than anything else in his writings. "Today is the big day," he wrote. "We're finally going to see who's going to win the election for Florida. Oh boy, I hope it goes well today. I'm praying we don't lose any rights or amendments in Florida. I'm going to watch the results later tonight around 8:00."
A few days later, Cruz wrote that the election was still not over and voiced fears that liberals would destroy the country. "The recount here in Florida is still not over yet," he wrote. "We have another day before we find out who the new governor and senator are. I really hope Florida stays red... I really don't like liberals; I don't want them winning. They really are dangerous. They spread lies and are destroying America. We're going to one day be the weakest country with the highest crime rates.
"I hate it here. I wish I could leave and move to the mountains and live alone with some equipments that allow me to live off the land. I hope one day I'll be able to do that, but time will tell. What about you? Are you liberal or conservative? Let me know."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.