At the time of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz was staying with the Snead family, who maintain their position on gun ownership even after the catastrophic events of Valentine's Day.
James and Kimberly Snead took Cruz in at the request of their son, less than a month after Cruz's mother passed away. They speculated that the 19-year-old was depressed, but said they had no idea he was capable of such an atrocity. They also knew that Cruz was a gun owner, but admitted in a recent interview they didnt know what they were.
“I didn’t know what kind they were,” James said. “It didn’t matter what kind of guns they were. I have guns. I respect guns as long as they’re handled properly, safely.”
When he moved in with them, the Sneads made Cruz buy a safe for his guns. James believed he had the only key to the safe, though he has since speculated that Cruz must have gotten a copy without telling him.
"I knew he had hunting rifles... I knew he had [an] assault rifle, but I knew he used it out hunting," Snead said. "It’s his right to own a gun."
The assault rifle was an AR-15, the same weapon used in many of the mass shootings in recent years, including the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas last October.
The Sneads were shocked that the young man they'd offered their home to had plotted such a heinous crime. On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Cruz entered the high school he'd been expelled from and took 17 lives, including former classmates and teachers. He wore his JROTC shirt, blending in with the mass of students in the chaos and nearly escaping. He was taken alive less than two hours later.
Since the shooting, many people have argued about where the accountability lies. Cruz left a trail of warning signs, especially on social media. He often posted pictures of guns, weapons and even animals he'd mutilated. The Sneads say they never knew that side of him.
“The Nik we knew was not the Nik that everybody else seemed to know,” James said.
“He pulled one over on us, as well as a lot of people," Kimberly added. “We put him on a positive path, trying to heal, and he just blew it... absolutely floored us.”0comments
However, the Sneads told reporters they wouldn't do anything differently if they were faced with the same scenario again.
“We feel heartfelt sorrow for the families involved,” James Snead said. "As far as being responsible, feeling responsibility, you know, we worked that out and there was nothing different we would have done."