The police officer who eventually arrested Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz has recalled how ‘eerily calm’ the teenager was and how he looked him right in the eyes soon after the deadly massacre.
Coconut Creek Police officer Michael Leonard took the 19-year-old shooter into custody on February 14 about an hour after he shot dead 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The 46-year-old said he chose to leave the school and started looking for the gunman on his own with only a limited description of what he looked like.
Michael Leonard, the police officer who arrested Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, has recalled how ‘eerily calm’ the teenager was soon after the deadly massacre
‘He was on foot, so I knew he couldn’t be far,’ Leonard, who has been on the force for 17 years, told the Sun Sentinel.
‘I drove through grass. I drove over medians and curbs. That was really the only way to get around.’
Leonard said he eventually spotted Cruz walking on a sidewalk a few miles from the school.
‘For some reason, I was just led to that area. I don’t know why. It was just me and him on that quiet road. We were all alone, just me and him,’ he said.
Leonard said he was shocked by Cruz’s young age.
‘He looked like a student. He was just a skinny little guy,’ he said.
He said the 19-year-old looked ‘eerily calm’ when he was taken into custody about an hour after he shot dead 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland
Leonard said he eventually spotted Cruz walking on a sidewalk a few miles from the school and shouted at him to surrender
Photos taken at the time showed a dazed and distant looking Cruz being placed into a cruiser still in his hospital gown before he was taken to the station
With his gun drawn, Leonard shouted for Cruz to surrender and the teenager complied with his orders.
‘It probably was overwhelming to him. I just flooded him with commands. I told him to turn around, and he looked me right in the eye, looking down the barrel of my gun,’ he said.
‘He looked calm, eerily calm.
‘I don’t know how you could look that calm after doing something like that.’
Footage of Cruz’s arrest showed him placing his hands behind his back in surrender. One officer could be seen pointing a gun at him before another ran behind and cuffed him.
The gunman was then taken to a nearby hospital before being transported to jail.
Cruz, pictured in court last week, is charged in a 34-count indictment with killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack. He faces the death penalty if convicted
Photos taken at the time showed a dazed and distant looking Cruz being placed into a cruiser still in his hospital gown before he was taken to the station.
Leonard’s heroics are in contrast to the Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred.
Cruz is charged in a 34-count indictment with killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
Recent documents in his criminal case show that school officials and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation but it was never acted upon.
A commitment under the law would have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for Cruz to obtain a gun legally.