Nikolas Jacob Cruz was born in Florida, United States to Brenda Woodard. His biological father is unknown.
Woodard has a lengthy criminal history, which includes convictions for battery, drug possession and grand theft dating back to 1988. In 1990, she gave birth to Cruz’s half-sister Daniella Woodard.
Daniella lived in Miami, Florida. She also has a criminal history that includes convictions for battery, credit card fraud and resisting arrest.
Shortly after Cruz was born, he was adopted by marketing business owner Roger Cruz and stay-at-home mother Lynda Cruz. In 1999, Woodard gave birth to Nikolas’s half-brother Zachary Cruz.
In 2000, Roger and Lynda also adopted Zachary. Nikolas and Zachary were raised Catholic in Parkland, Florida.
Nikolas was diagnosed with autism, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and emotional behavioral disability. Here are 13 more things about him:
- In 2001, he was diagnosed with developmental delays.
- On August 11, 2004, he witnessed how Roger died of a heart attack in their family home in Parkland. Roger was 67.
- Between 2012 and 2016, Lynda called sheriff’s deputies to their family home in Parkland at least 12 times to deal with him, Zachary or both. Most calls were for disrespecting her, destroying her property, fighting or running away.
- In 2014, he was preoccupied with wars, death and killing. In the same year, he left Westglades Middle School in Coral Springs, Florida for Cross Creek School in Pompano Beach, Florida which offers a program for emotionally and behaviorally disabled children. In January 2015, he left Cross Creek School.
- On January 13, 2016, he was allowed to enroll in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. In September 2016, he ingested gasoline, showed fresh cuts on both his arms on Snapchat and said he wanted to buy a gun. In December 2016, he stopped undergoing mental health treatment.
- In January 2017, Lynda sold their family home in Parkland so he moved into a smaller condo in Parkland with Lynda and Zachary. In the same month, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School kicked him out after he assaulted someone there. On February 8, 2017, he was transferred to an alternative school. On February 11, 2017, he bought an AR-15. In September 2017, he commented in the YouTube page of a blogger from Mississippi, USA saying, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The blogger alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- On November 1, 2017, Lynda died of pneumonia. She was 68. He and Zachary went to live in Lantana, Florida in the mobile home of their former neighbor Rocxanne Deschamps. On November 29, 2017, Deschamps called 911 to say he was not welcome back. James Snead and Kimberly Snead of Parkland took him in. He was friends with James and Kimberly’s son.
- On February 14, 2018, carrying his AR-15, he entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire on students and staff, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others. He was arrested that day.
- On March 7, 2018, a grand jury indicted him on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. On November 13, 2018, he attacked Sergeant Ray Beltran, a jail officer. On November 14, 2018, he was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, battery against an officer and use of an electric or chemical weapon against an officer.
- On April 24, 2019, a determination was made that he and Zachary would share the proceeds of a MetLife insurance policy worth $864,929, making him make ineligible for representation by the public defender’s office.
- His trial was initially scheduled to begin on January 27, 2020 but was delayed due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- On October 20, 2021, he pleaded guilty to all of the charges filed against him and apologized for his crimes. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison for attacking Beltran.
- On October 13, 2022, a jury unanimously agreed that he was eligible for the death penalty but deadlocked on whether it should be imposed then recommended a life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He was 24 years old when Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced him on November 2, 2022 to 17 life terms without parole.