Florida shooting: Leader of white nationalist group confirms suspect was member of his organisation before appearing to deny it

Leader of group seeking 'white ethno-state' had predicted 'an open, violent clash involving guns'

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Thursday 15 February 2018 19:00
Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz arrives at Broward County jail

The suspect in a Florida school shooting may have been a member of a white supremacist group, with the organisation's leader casting doubt on the association after affirming it.

A representative of the Republic of Florida named Jacob Jered initially told multiple outlets that suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member, though later in the day Mr Jereb undercut his previous claim with a statement saying there had been a “misunderstanding” due to his group having multiple people with the same first name.

The Leon County Sheriff's Department, which has reportedly had contact with Mr Jereb and the Republic of Florida in the past, told reporters that it had not established any ties between the group and Mr Cruz.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks extremists groups, included the Republic of Florida on its “Hate Watch” list. After Mr Jered walked back his initial statement, the centre said he had “always been somewhat of a publicity seeker”.

Tallahassee-based WTXL-TV reported last year that the white nationalist group was actively seeking more members and said the group was on the Leon County Sheriff’s Office’s radar.

“I do think civil war is a very real possibility in the next two years,” Mr Jereb told the Tallahassee Democrat, predicting “an open, violent clash involving guns and people stabbing and killing each other”.

Authorities have charged Mr Cruz with 17 counts of murder, and investigators are beginning to piece together information about the suspect.

The FBI confirmed that it had received a tip about an online commenter with the name “nikolas cruz” posting “Im going to be a professional school shooter” in 2017. The bureau ran database checks but could not confirm the poster’s identity.

An online trail left behind by Mr Cruz included some “very disturbing” material, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.

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