Nikolas Cruz, the man charged in this week’s school massacre, left a suburban Lantana mobile home in November because his benefactor gave him an ultimatum: you or the gun.
“He bought a gun and wanted to bring it into my house,” Rocxanne Deschamps said publicly in comments that have since been removed from her Facebook page.
And Chad Bennett, Deschamps’ friend, said Cruz “chose the gun and he left.”
It’s not known if the gun that led to his departure is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle authorities say he fired Wednesday afternoon in the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, leaving 14 students and three adults dead and numerous people injured.
The woman had taken in Nikolas Cruz and his younger brother after their adoptive mother died of pneumonia Nov. 1. Nikolas left the home around Thanksgiving and moved in with a family in northern Broward County, a lawyer for that family has said.
Bennett said Cruz’s younger brother, who turns 18 next week, has continued to stay at the suburban Lantana home. On Friday, sources close to the investigation confirm, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, assisting their Broward County counterparts, removed a person at midday from the mobile home to a mental health facility for treatment. Bennett said the person is Nikolas’ brother, whom The Palm Beach Post is not naming because he is a juvenile.
Nikolas Cruz’s three-week November stay at Rocxanne Deschamps’ home is just one episode in a 3½-month journey through three residences in two counties.
Part of the mystery: what did the 19-year-old do for money?
When Cruz took an Uber to the high school Wednesday, he was an orphan, was effectively homeless, worked as a clerk in a dollar store, and had no nest egg following the short sale of his family home.
But he had been able to walk into a Broward County gun shop a year ago and pay more than $600 in cash to buy the gun new. And spent even more at other shops for the murderous arsenal of bullets and ammo magazines he carried with him Wednesday as he allegedly mowed down screaming teens.
Rocxanne Deschamps has not responded to inquiries from The Palm Beach Post.
‘She tried to do the right thing and it backfired’
On Friday, at Lantana Cascade mobile home park, a neighbor said she “tried to do the right thing and it backfired.” And Bennett said the woman is “stressed of course. She’s known this child for a long time. He’s like her nephew.”
The two boys had been adopted by Roger and Lynda Cruz. Roger died in August 2004 at 67; the cause of death couldn’t be learned Friday. Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia Nov. 1 at 68.
Bennett said Lynda Cruz had named Deschamps — a longtime friend and a former neighbor in Broward County — as the siblings’ guardian, but she has no paperwork to confirm that. He said the family has been unable to find Lynda Cruz’s will.
“We tore the house apart,” he said.
Bennett said Deschamps, who works at a company that employs yacht crews, never received any money from Lynda Cruz, saying, “everything has been out of her pocket.”
Court records show Deschamps filed a petition Thursday to administer Lynda Cruz’s estate.
But, Bennett said, Deschamps “wasn’t going to have a gun or anything around with her kids.”
He said the woman had two sons but he did not give their ages. Court records show one of the two is 5 and was the subject of a custody battle between Deschamps and the child’s father, a former fiancé, which was settled with a joint custody agreement.
After Wednesday’s massacre, some commented on Deschamps’ Facebook page and accused her, without any evidence, of failing Nikolas Cruz and of stealing his money. She angrily denied that, citing the gun ultimatum, and said she helped find him his new home on Loxahatchee Road.
“Violence and gun not accepted in my house!” she wrote.
Cruz bought AR-15 with cash
While it is not known if the AR-15 was the gun over which Cruz and Deschamps disagreed, it is known where the teen bought it.
Lawyers for Sunrise Tactical, a Broward County gun shop, told The Palm Beach Post Friday that Cruz bought the gun on Feb. 11, 2017, then waited the appropriate five days before returning to pick it up, along with the standard magazine — but no bullets.
“He walked in, pointed to a particular weapon on the shelf,” Boca Raton attorney Douglas Rudman said. “There were no other modifications. He bought it with the magazine that came with it. No accessories.”
Rudman said the store owners have no clue where Cruz bought the rest of his arsenal.
“It almost seems like he wanted to go out of his way to split up his purchases in a manner to not raise suspicions,” Rudman said.
A month earlier, in January 2017, Lynda Cruz had sold the family home at 6166 NW 80 Terrace in Parkland, court records show.
A person with knowledge of Roger Cruz’s probate said the sale of the home was a short sale. That’s a term for a bank allowing the owner of a home to sell it for far less than he or she owes the bank on it, just so the bank can get at least something. It means the owner gets no money for the sale.
The brothers then moved to the suburban Lantana mobile home and Nikolas later moved to the home of James Snead and his family on Lox Road in Parkland.
Dozens of law enforcement officers descended Wednesday and Thursday on both homes.
Jim Lewis, a lawyer for the Lox Road family, said Cruz brought a semi-automatic rifle with him and that “under the house rules,” the family ordered him to lock the rifle in a gun safe. He said Cruz agreed. Lewis did not know when the family realized the gun was no longer in the safe.
Lewis said the family did not know when Cruz removed the gun. He said when they got home the afternoon of the shooting, deputies were there and “made inquiries.”
He said the family never saw the teen use the gun and as far as they know he never fired it on the property.
Asked why the family allowed such a gun in the home at all, he said they were gun owners themselves and “they were responsible people. Everybody deals with these issues differently. It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback.”
Staff researcher Melanie Mena and staff writer Hannah Winston contributed to this story.