Before he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Nikolas Cruz lived with James and Kimberly Snead after his adoptive mother Lynda died in November. The Sneads opened up on Sunday to the Sun Sentinel for the first time since the Wednesday shooting, revealing what they told Cruz when they saw him at the police station.
The Sneads' son called them at around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, after hearing shots. He said he was safe and helped classmates escape the scene.
James told his son to get to a Walmart, where he would pick him up. On the way, a SWAT commander called to ask where his son Cruz was. He told the commander that Cruz was not his son and he was not sure where he was.
James realized that Cruz might have been the shooter, and called the SWAT commander back, telling him they needed to send police to their house to make sure Kimberly was safe. He then called his son back to tell him he was heading home to make sure his mother was safe.
When police arrived, Kimberly was asleep. They woke her up and told her to put her hands in the air. They asked where her son was, and she realized they meant Cruz. By that point, he was already in police custody.
Later, the couple reunited with their son at Broward Sheriff's headquarters. When they saw Cruz in custody, Kimberly tried to rush towards him. Her husband held her back.
"Really, Nik? Really?" Kimberly yelled.
“He said he was sorry. He apologized. He looked lost, absolutely lost,” James recalled. “And that was the last time we saw him.”
Cruz moved in with the Sneads after briefly living with a friend of his mother's in Lantana. The Sneads believe Cruz moved out because of arguments over his weapons. He told the Sneads he was going to inherit $800,000 from his deceased parents after turning 22. The Sneads said they saw paperwork that backed up this claim.
Cruz claimed the family friend was taking money from him, but the Sneads told the Sun Sentinel they think the woman was innocent and Cruz was a victim of identity theft. They reported nearly $3,000 in fraudulent charges on his credit card on his behalf. The Sneads said they do not know if Cruz knew any of the victims and are not sure why he did it.
“What else could this family have possibly done to put this young man on the right track?” Jim Lewis, their attorney, told the Sun Sentinel. “They tried to do a good deed and it went horribly wrong for them.”
Cruz is being held without bond and was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.