Flanked by one of the most prominent womens’ rights attorneys in the nation, the Lantana-area woman who took in the Parkland school shooter broke her silence Tuesday, saying she did everything in her power to warn law enforcement of the violent Nikolas Cruz.
“I wanted to protect, not only my own children, but also anyone else who might be at risk of being harmed,” Rocxanne Deschamps, 42, said at a news conference at a hotel in midtown Manhattan.
Wiping Deschamps’ tears was famed attorney Gloria Allred. Allred said Deschamps “feels the system failed the victims of the Parkland tragedy…” She said Deschamps reached out to her out of concern that false statements have been made about her. She called Deschamps a “hero” for trying to prevent the shooting.
“I also wanted to protect Nikolas from himself,” Deschamps said, reading from a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, although I did everything I could, I was not able to stop this tragedy from taking place.”
The news conference marked the first time Deschamps has spoken publicly about her history with Cruz and his family. She explained why she invited Cruz and his brother, Zachary, into her home after their mother, Lynda Cruz, 68, died Nov. 1. She also detailed calls to police she and her family made about the teen’s fascination with guns and how his mother had feared him.
Nikolas Cruz has admitted to going on a Valentine’s Day shooting spree with an AR-15 and killing 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty. The shooting has sparked student-led protests nationwide and a march in Washington D.C., planned for Saturday.
Deschamps recalled how her family and the Cruzes lived next door to one another in Parkland, revealing that she and Lynda Cruz spoke every day.
She said she would watch Lynda’s sons if Lynda went out, adding that she’d take the children bowling, boating, to the movies or the arcade.
For about three weeks in October 2016, Deschamps stayed with the Cruz family. She said she saw guns on the floor in Nikolas’ closet while she and her children stayed with the Cruzes.
“The guns that I observed were not hunting guns,” she said. “They looked like army guns. I saw at least five of them. The guns looked like assault weapons. They were very large. I also saw a large box of bullets. I saw Nikolas playing with and cleaning the guns.”
Deschamps asked her oldest son to check if there were bullets in the guns and to put them in a safe.
“Lynda was afraid to do it herself because she was afraid of Nikolas,” Deschamps said.
She also said Lynda previously told her Nikolas put a gun to her head.
That same month, Lynda asked Deschamps to take care of the boys if anything happened to her. Lynda Cruz’s husband had died years before.
“I assured her if something happened to her that I would be there for her boys,” Deschamps said Tuesday.
That day would come about one year later on Oct. 31.
Lynda that day drove herself to the hospital to get treatment for pneumonia and the flu. Deschamps came to the hospital and told her she would keep her word and take care of the Cruz boys.
Lynda died the next day.
Deschamps took the boys to their home to gather their personal items and their dogs and they moved in with her in her mobile home west of Lantana. Deschamps told Nikolas he couldn’t bring any guns to her home with the exception of BB guns, she said Tuesday.
Nikolas’ want for the weapons ultimately ended his stay with Deschamps.
Deschamps confirmed at the news conference that she and her family called police three times and told them she was concerned about Nikolas having a gun.
She described an unpredictable Nikolas Cruz.
The family thought Nikolas might have hidden a gun in the back yard after discovering an empty gun box in a hole, she said. Nikolas threatened to shoot her 22-year-old son, punched walls, smashed items at the mobile home and got into a fistfight with the son when the son tried to stop him, The Palm Beach Post previously reported.
Despite the repeated calls for help to law enforcement, Deschamps said she was told nothing could be done. She said she told police that Nikolas put a gun to his mother’s head and his brother’s head.
“I also told them about other warning signs. I was very concerned that the gun, which he had purchased, might be brought into my house or that he might get the gun and use it to harm himself or others,” she said.
Deschamps repeatedly paused to wipe her tears. Dabbing at her face was Allred, who has represented, among other noteworthy clients, at least 28 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct.
Deschamps said she told Nikolas to take his prescribed medicine and encouraged him to see a doctor about treating depression.
But he refused, she said.
Nikolas left Deschamps’ home because she told him either keep the gun and move or get rid of the gun and stay.
He chose to leave, she said.
Zachary, his brother, stayed.
Deschamps wouldn’t comment Tuesday about Zachary, now 18, who was arrested Monday near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Officials said he trespassed at the school three times since the mass shooting. He told deputies he went to the campus to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it in,” according to his arrest report.
She also wouldn’t comment about Lynda Cruz’s estate.
Deschamps and Zachary Cruz asked a probate judge to be named administrators of Lynda Cruz’s estate. How much it’s worth is a matter of contention. Nikolas Cruz reportedly has said his mother left him about $800,000.
Nikolas and Zachary Cruz are listed as beneficiaries of their mother’s estate.
Deschamps spoke to Nikolas Cruz the day before the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas. He texted her and was worried about the dogs, she said.
She said she is glad that the Parkland students are marching this weekend in Washington D.C., for changes in gun control laws and to protect children at schools.
“I am a parent and I support them and I’m very proud of them,” she said.
She also said elected officials should listen to the students’ voices and take action.
“My heart goes out to the 17 victims of the shooting who were killed, to the 17 who were injured and to all their families, and to everyone who was placed in fear that terrible day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” she said.
“I did everything I could to warn law enforcement about what could happen.”