FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Mental health experts who treated the Parkland gunman in the years leading up to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School testified Thursday that they would not have been able to predict the tragedy based on what they knew.
But one warning seemed to fall through the cracks, jurors learned.
Nikolas Cruz was treated for a variety of diagnoses for 15 years, starting when he was 3 and effectively ending six months before he murdered 17 people at the school on Valentine’s Day 2018.
“There is nothing in the record that would signify that [he was planning a mass shooting] whatsoever,” said psychiatrist Brett Negin, who last treated Cruz in person on Aug. 14, 2017. Earlier in the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Cruz had already decided to become a mass shooter and was scouring the internet to choose role models, weapons and a target.
Negin was warned, in a 2014 letter he did not recall receiving, that Cruz was having ominous, violent thoughts. The letter was cowritten by a therapist and a psychiatrist for the Broward school district while Cruz was enrolled in the Cross Creek School for children with behavioral challenges.
“He dreams of killing others and is covered in blood,” they wrote.
The letter also warned Cruz “has a preoccupation with guns and the military and perseverates on this topic inappropriately. … He destroyed his television after losing a video game that he was playing. Nikolas has a hatchet that he uses to chop up a dead tree in his backyard.”
The letter goes on to say the hatchet disappeared, and Cruz had made a habit of punching holes in the walls of his home.
Nothing came of the warning.
Cruz faces the death penalty for each of the 17 murders he committed. Defense lawyers are introducing testimony about his mental health history in a bid to convince jurors, without excusing or justifying the mass shooting, that Cruz was in a lifelong battle for control of his mental state and behavior.
The death penalty cannot be imposed unless the jury recommends it unanimously for at least one of the murders.
The trial resumes Monday.