Suspected Gunman Nikolas Cruz Trained With Florida White Supremacist Group, Leader Claims

The 19-year-old suspected of shooting and killing 17 students and teachers at his former high school was reportedly trained with a white supremacist group in Florida before the massacre.

The Associated Press reports that Jordan Jereb, the leader of the white nationalist group Republic of Florida (ROF), confirmed Nikolas Cruz was among the group's members.

Jereb also reportedly told the Anti-Defamation League Thursday that Cruz had participated in at least one training exercise of theirs near Tallahassee, carpooling with other members.

Jereb said Cruz was "brought up" by another ROF member, but added that neither he nor anyone in ROF had directed Cruz to carry out the crime.

Among the many aims of the ROF is to make Florida its own white-ethno state, according to the Daily Mail.

Cruz was arrested Wednesday and charged Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is being held at the Browan

Cruz was expelled from the school in spring 2017, but returned to campus with an AR-15 style rifle shortly before dismissal on Wednesday. He reportedly triggered fire alarms and shot students as they streamed into hallways.

Cruz, whose adoptive mother died in November and whose adoptive father died years ago, was staying with a family of one of his classmate's. The family reportedly knew about his semi-automatic rifle and had him keep it in a locked gun safe on condition.

The White House has lowered its flag to half-staff to honor the 17 victims out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and President Donald Trump gave a speech pledging federal help to the Florida community reeling from the murders and said he would travel to Parkland to coordinate the federal response. He urged Americans to answer "hate with love" and "cruelty with kindness."

"We are all joined together as one American family and your suffering is our burden also," he said.

"We are committed to working with state and local leaders to secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health," the president said.

Many were concerned that the president did not mention guns or gun reform in his speech following the massacre. This Is Us star Mandy Moore tweeted that she was "absolutely baffled" by his speech and that her "blood was boiling."

"I am absolutely baffled watching the President speak about the tragedy in #parkland and not ONE word about guns. Shameful. My blood is boiling. Something has to change. Bring on the midterms so we can use our power to vote out politicians who continue to do nothing," she tweeted.

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Talk show host Kelly Ripa also said during her show that "offering thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore," saying that she feels as if she's lying to her kids when she reassures them they are safe at school.

"You don't want to mislead your kids and say this is never going to happen, you hope and pray it doesn't happen, but when they are inundated with these images every day, day after day, all the time, you start to feel like a liar, and I don't like feeling that way," she said.