The Florida foster parents of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz have issued a public apology for opening their home to him in the months before the massacre and allowing him to keep a cache of guns, despite warnings from others who knew the teen saying he was ‘dangerous’ and obsessed with weapons.
James and Kimberly Snead expressed their regret in a letter to the families of the 17 victims who were shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018.
‘We, James and Kimberly Snead, will forever regret taking Nikolas Cruz into our home,’ the couple wrote. ‘We did so believing we were helping a troubled young man who needed help.’
James and Kimberly Snead (left), former foster parents of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz (right), have issued a letter of apology for ignoring warning signs about him
This photo posted on the Instagram account of Nikolas Cruz shows his cache of military-style weapons lying on a bed before the Valentine’s Day 2018 school shooting
The couple penned the letter acknowledging their mistakes to satisfy one of the conditions of settling a barrage of civil lawsuits that were filed against them by the victims’ relatives in the wake of the slaughter.
The letter was first reported on by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday.
The agreement also calls for the Sneads to pay the victims a nominal restitution of $1, and prohibits them from profiting off of the story of the shooting.
The Snead admitted to ignoring warnings from Cruz’s previous caretaker, Rocxanne Deschamps, before welcoming him into their home two-and-a-half months before the tragedy.
Deschamps, who briefly looked after Cruz and his brother, Zachary, after their adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, died in November 2017, had informed the Sneads that the 19-year-old had serious behavioral issues and had chosen to leave her home rather than part from his assault-style rifle.
The Sneads, who took Cruz in less than three months before his shooting rampage, acknowledged that it was a mistake to let him keep guns in their home. They also admitted being warned by his relative that he was ‘infatuated’ with firearms
Rocxanne Deschamps (left) had informed the Sneads that Cruz had serious behavioral issues and had chosen to leave her home rather than part from his assault-style rifle, but they did not heed her warning, according to the letter
Deschamps previously said that she forbade Cruz from having guns in her house and ‘begged’ him to see a doctor to be treated for depression.
She also warned law enforcement about his obsession with military-style guns and violent outbursts, but she said police told her there was nothing they could do.
In their public mea culpa, James and Kimberly Snead also acknowledged that they failed to heed the warnings from Katherine Blaine, Cruz’s cousin, who told them at the time that the teen was ‘violent, dangerous, infatuated with guns and knives, untrustworthy, and threatened to kill people on Instagram, among other things.
‘We thought we could handle this troubled young man, unfortunately, we were wrong,’ the Sneads conceded.
Cruz, now aged 21, is charged with fatally shooting 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018
The couple further admitted that it was ‘particularly wrong’ of them to allow Cruz to store his arsenal of firearms in their house, including the AR-15 that he later used to shoot and kill 14 high school students and two Stoneman Douglas faculty members.
‘We believed the firearms were secured in a gun safe under lock and key,’ wrote the Sneads. ‘We believed we had the only key, yet, somehow Nikolas Cruz was able to access the AR-15 before he attacked Stoneman Douglas.’
The couple closed their letter by urging other people to learn from their mistakes and pay close attention to warning signs before letting ‘a troubled young person’ into their home.
They stressed the importance of making sure all firearms are under lock and key, and encouraged caretakers to review the social media posts of the teen living under their roof on a regular basis.
Cruz is in jail awaiting his death penalty trial, which has been delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus restrictions
‘Troubled persons so often foretell the violence that they’re going to commit on social media,’ wrote the Sneads.
Andrew Pollack, a school safety activist who lost his daughter Meadow in the Parkland shooting, said he and other victims’ relatives demanded that James and Kimberly Snead publicly apologize for their inaction.
‘They didn’t want to accept accountability, and we forced it on them,’ he told the Sun-Sentinel.
Months after the school shooting, the Sneads complained about being bombarded with wrongful death and negligence lawsuits, which they feared could bring them to the brink of bankruptcy.
‘We’re like many other families in America today, we live paycheck to paycheck,’ James, a US Army veteran, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in May 2018b.
The Sneads insisted at the time that their house guest showed no warning signs of mental derangement or homicidal tendencies, and argued that they had no way of knowing he would carry out the slaughter.
The couple have since moved out of Parkland after becoming pariahs in their community.
Meanwhile, Cruz’s death penalty trial has been put off indefinitely because of restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak.
A judge made the announcement in June, saying that it is not even clear when the Broward County courthouse will reopen to the public. It’s been closed since March.
Cruz, now aged 21, is charged with fatally shooting 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018. His lawyers say he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors are forging ahead with a trial.
Parkland victims remembered: The 14 students and three teachers who died on February 14, 2018
Jaime Guttenberg, 14, (left) was described by relatives as a ‘kind-hearted, sweet’ girl. Senior Nicholas Dworet (right) was a gifted swimmer who had his sights set on 2020 Tokyo Olympics success. His devastated college student girlfriend is among those grieving his death. Friends said he was not just a talented athlete, but a ‘good guy’ who will be missed
Martin Duque, 14, (left) was a freshman. Meadow Pollack, 18, (right) was preparing for college
Cara Loughran, 14, (left) loved Irish dancing and the beach. Alyssa Alhadeff, 15, (right) was eulogized by her mother who said she was a talented soccer player and creative mind. ‘All she had to offer the world was love… I just sent her to school and she was shot and killed’
Luke Hoyer (left), 15, was described as a ‘precious’ child by his grandparents, who said he was a ‘good kid’ who ‘never got in trouble’. Joaquin Oliver, 17, (right), was a Venezuelan immigrant who came to the US with his family for a ‘better future’
Gina Montalto, 15, (left) was described as a ‘light and joy’. She volunteered at a local project called The Friendship Initiative as a buddy for children with special needs. Alaina Petty, 14, (right) was also killed. Her Mormon church said she was a ‘valiant’ member
Carmen Schentrup, 16, (left) was a gifted student who last year was named as a semifinalist in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. ROTC student Peter Wang, 15, (right) also died. Students said that Peter held the door open for others while they fled
Alex Schachter, 14, (left) was described by his father Max as a ‘sweetheart of a child’ who ‘just wanted to do well and please his parents’. Helena Ramsey, 17, (right) was described by relatives as a ‘reserved’ and studious girl who was due to go to college next year
Geography Scott Beigel, 35, (left) was shot dead as he tried to lock the door of his classroom again after letting a group of fleeing students in to hide. They were running away from the gunman. Athletic director Chris Hixon, 49, (right) was also killed shielding students
Aaron Feis, 37, (center) died acting as a human shield. The track coach had thrown himself on top of the kids to stop the bullets from hitting him. He was a former student and was also a security guard at the school where he had worked for eight years