A northern Broward County family decided to help out an orphan who had nowhere else to go. What they got was the world “gone crazy” and law-enforcement officers crawling over their home west of Boca Raton, their lawyer says.
Within hours of Wednesday afternoon’s high school shooting in Parkland, authorities surrounded a home that both the agency and the family’s lawyer have since confirmed is where alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz lived.
Jim Lewis, a lawyer representing the family, confirmed that deputies and the FBI were back at the house Thursday, armed with a search warrant, and removed several items. He said they finished for the day Thursday evening but planned to return. He also said the FBI was directing the operation. An FBI spokesman did not return a call Thursday from The Palm Beach Post.
Lewis said Cruz’s father had died several years ago — he did not know the circumstances — and his mother died of pneumonia Nov. 1. He said Cruz then lived for a few weeks at the Lantana Cascade mobile-home neighborhood and then moved in with the Parkland family around Thanksgiving —and brought a semi-automatic rifle with him.
The family is “horrified. They had no idea that this kid was capable of this,” Lewis said Thursday. “They were just trying to give him a place to live, and now the world has gone crazy.”
Lewis said that “under the house rules,” the rifle was going to be locked up in a gun safe. He said Cruz agreed and kept it locked.
He said the family had no hints of the carnage authorities now blamed on their house guest.
“They didn’t see anything,” Lewis said.”The mother said if they had any suspicious that he was violent, was capable of anything like this, he would have never stepped foot in her house.”
On Wednesday afternoon, at the sprawling compound, across the Hillsboro Canal from the Palm Beach County line far west of downtown Boca Raton, at least a half dozen Broward sheriffs deputies, some holding long guns, scoured the large home behind a wooden fence. To the east, deputies inspected a large open garage.
According to the Broward County sheriff’s arrest report posted after Cruz’s first appearance on Thursday, Cruz had been living with the family at the Loxahatchee Road address.
Loxahatchee Road, also known as Lox Road, extends west of Boca Raton and eventually separates developed Parkland in Broward from the south border of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach. On Wednesday afternoon, a long line of traffic slowed as motorists alternately gawked and negotiated patrol cars partially in the roadway.
A man in plainclothes who drove into the compound would not provide any information, saying only, “not a good time “
A few minutes later, a blond woman in a T-shirt who was on her cellphone got into an unmarked patrol car with a uniformed deputy and the man who earlier had refused to comment. They drove off.
On Thursday, Lewis would not say if that woman was part of the family at the home. He said he is not related to the family and the family was not related to Cruz.