The stunned couple who took in Nikolas Cruz after the death of his mother has spoken for the first time about the troubled teenager suspected of killing 17 students and staff at his former high school in Florida on Valentine’s Day.
Kimberly and James Snead described the 19 year-old as immature, quirky and depressed – but pleasant and growing happier and giving no clues of the horror he was about inflict as he plotted the massacre under their roof.
“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We didn’t see this side of him.”
“Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” James Snead said. “It’s as simple as that.”
The Sneads agreed to take in Cruz after their son had asked whether his friend could move into their home after the death of his adoptive mother left him an orphan last November.
“I told him there’d be rules and he followed every rule to the T,” said Mr Snead, 48, an Army veteran who was happy for the teenager to have guns at home as long as they remained in a gun safe.
They told Cruz he needed to ask permission to take out the guns. He had asked only twice since November. They said “yes” once and “no” once.
The night before the shooting was uneventful and he went to bed around 8pm after eating dinner, the couple said.
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On Wednesday morning, Cruz told them he didn’t need a ride to school: “It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day,” he said.
Mrs Snead last saw him around 10am before she left to run errands. He told her he was going fishing and was gone when she returned. The nurse went to sleep ahead of a nightshift.
Around 2.30pm on Wednesday, their son called his father sounding panic-stricken. He assured them he was safe but had heard shots fired on campus and had helped classmates flee by climbing a fence.
Read more | Florida school shooting
He told his son to walk to a nearby store and he’d come and collect him.
As he drove there, a SWAT commander called his mobile phone and asked where his "son" Nik was. He explained he wasn’t his son and he had no idea where he was.
After putting the phone down, he started to put together the pieces and called the officer back and, worried for his wife, he told him: “I need a police presence at my house. Go make sure my wife is OK."
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Police banged on her door with guns drawn and escorted the couple to a police station.
As they waited to be reunited with their son, Cruz was led in to the building, handcuffed and wearing a hospital gown, surrounded by officers.
Kimberly tried to run at him and yelled: “Really, Nik? Really?”
“He said he was sorry. He apologised. He looked lost, absolutely lost,” said Mr Snead. “And that was the last time we saw him.”