‘Never found a weapon on the kid, never….’
(Megan O’Matz, Sun Sentinel) FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The former student who later shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was such a threat in school that he was searched every morning for weapons, new testimony shows.
The extraordinary measure followed an earlier decision to bar Nikolas Cruz from taking a backpack to campus after he talked of suicide and wrote “kill” in a notebook.
The search procedure was revealed in a sworn deposition from Kelvin Greenleaf, the security guard who searched Cruz. The South Florida Sun Sentinel obtained a copy of the deposition this week.
“Never found a weapon on him,” Greenleaf explained in the testimony July 11. “I think we got concerned when, I think, we found out he drank bleach, tried to hurt himself or something like that, the kid. That’s when we started, like, having the kid come in every morning to be searched by me, but never found a weapon on the kid, never.”
Administrators forced Cruz to withdraw from Stoneman Douglas within six months — in February 2017.
He walked onto the Parkland campus a year later and fatally shot 14 students and three educators with an assault-style rifle. He’s facing the death penalty.
The district did not respond Thursday to a request for comment about Greenleaf’s statements.
The deposition was taken as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the dead children, Meadow Pollack. Greenleaf is not a defendant but was a key witness because of his familiarity with Cruz and his role as a lead security specialist.
His surprising testimony shows the school recognized the extreme danger the gun-obsessed, mentally disturbed youth posed.
“They frisked him. … They had to frisk him every day,” said Andy Pollack, father of Meadow. “They knew that he was a threat. And they subjected all the kids and my daughter to this. Where were their rights? They didn’t tell us that they’re letting a kid in the school that he’s so violent and dangerous we won’t let him in with his backpack and we have to frisk him. But they let this kid into the school with our children.”
Pollack wishes he’d known and says if he did, he’d never have sent his daughter to Stoneman Douglas.
The school had a superior reputation as an A-rated school in an affluent, tranquil community.
From the start of his educational path, Cruz was considered a special-needs student. He had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and autism.
He wore a harness on the school bus in prekindergarten. And when he was at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, not the bathroom, not changing classes, without an escort.
“Although (the student) has made behavioral progress he continues to lack impulse control. He needs to be monitored while in both the school and neighborhood communities,” a school district report in March 2015 said.
That was only five months before the district transferred Cruz — part time at first — from a school for children with emotional and behavioral difficulties to Stoneman Douglas.
In the deposition, Greenleaf would describe Cruz only as “different” and “weird.” He said Cruz liked to agitate classmates and was a “little prankster.”
“I’ve seen kids who didn’t act like Nikolas Cruz shoot up schools. So it’s kind of — I don’t try to, like, label my kids. I know he was different,” Greenleaf said. “Yeah, we watched him and, you know, we knew we was going to get complaints on him. We knew that. And that’s why we kept such a close eye on him while he was there assigned to our school.”
“But you’re not keeping an eye on him just because he’s different, correct?” Pollack’s attorney, David Brill, asked in the deposition.
“Yes, sir, with some of the things he was doing, trying to frighten kids, jumping from behind, yes, we were — we were watching him,” Greenleaf replied.
A threat-assessment team at Stoneman Douglas banned Cruz from bringing a backpack to school after he told a classmate in September 2016 that he was depressed and drank gasoline to try to kill himself. At the same time, a counselor also became alarmed that he wrote “kill” in a notebook and talked of wanting to buy a gun within days, when he turned 18.
Greenleaf said he was instructed by Assistant Principal Jeff Morford to search Cruz every morning for weapons.
“We were watching him. But was there any — was there ever a time where I thought he would like hurt a kid on campus?” Greenleaf said. “No.”
©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.