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Florida school shooter belonged to white supremacist group, leader claims

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The 19-year-old accused of killing nearly 20 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday belonged to a white supremacist militia, the group’s leader claimed Friday.

The leader of the Republic of Florida white supremacist militia claimed in interviews with the Anti-Defamation League and The Associated Press that accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz belonged to the group and trained with other members in paramilitary drills.

However, Florida law enforcement sources reportedly told the Tallahassee Democrat on Thursday that they had not confirmed a link between Cruz and the Republic of Florida group.

Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.

{mosads}The group describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics,” according to the ADL. Militia leader Jordan Jereb told the AP that the group wants to create a “white ethno-state” in Florida.

Several people claiming to be members of the militia posted on section of the 4chan forum popular with white supremacists, saying that Cruz was part of the group.

Jereb told the ADL that group had not instructed or wanted Cruz to conduct a school shooting. Wednesday’s shooting, the 18th school shooting so far this year, left at least 17 dead and 14 injured.

“He acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did,” Jereb told the AP, adding that he thought Cruz had recently had “trouble with a girl,” seeming to imply that the attack could have been timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

Cruz, who was arrested off of school property, was identified as a former student of the school who had been expelled after bringing ammunition to school in his backpack. He reportedly legally purchased the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting one year ago.

President Trump said in a tweet Thursday morning that mental illness was responsible for the shooting and that community members could have prevented it by reporting Cruz’s erratic behavior to authorities. 

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” he tweeted. 

“Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” 

-Updated at 5:05 p.m.

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