The woman who looked after Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz before he murdered 17 people last month has broken her silence to describe him as ‘a troubled young man’.
Rocxanne Deschamps told a news conference in New York that Cruz once put a gun to his mother’s head, displayed a deep affection for military-style guns and behaved so frighteningly that her family called 911 three times.
It was the first time she has publicly discussed what was happening at her home near Lantana when Nikolas and his brother Zachary lived with her and her family, sun-sentinel.com reported.
Rocxanne Deschamps shed tears during her news conference in New York – Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect, lived with her for a while after his mother’s death
Rocxanne Deschamps said that she learned of Cruz’s fascination with firearms during his stay with her and tried to warn law enforcement officers
Deschamps was comforted during the news conference by her attorney Gloria Allred
She said she forbade Cruz from having guns in her house and ‘begged’ him to see a doctor to be treated for the depression he suffered after his mother’s death.
‘I did everything I could to warn law enforcement about what could happen,’ she said, reading from a written statement and dabbing her eyes.
‘I wanted to protect, not only my own children, but also anyone else who might be at risk of being harmed.
‘I also wanted to protect Nikolas from himself. Unfortunately, although I did everything I could, I was not able to stop this tragedy from taking place.’
She said that as a family neighbor she became friends with the boys’ mother Lynda and took Nikolas and Zachary to go bowling, play arcade games and go to a water park.
During a 2016 stay at their home, she said, she learned of Cruz’s fascination with firearms.
‘While I was there I saw guns on the floor in the closet of Nikolas’ room,’ she said. ‘The guns that I observed were not hunting guns. They looked like army guns. I saw at least five of them.
Nikolas and Zachary Cruz hold the ashes of their adoptive mother Lynda Cruz who died from pneumonia in November
Nikolas Cruz (center) has been indicted on 17 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder after he opened fire at his former high school
A Florida judge entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Cruz at a recent court hearing
The 19-year-old suspected gunman kept his head lowered and remained silent during the hearing
Nikolas Cruz (center) has been arraigned in relation to the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school
‘The guns looked like assault weapons. They were very large. I also saw a large box of bullets. I saw Nikolas playing with and cleaning the guns.’
In 2016, Deschamps said, she promised his mother she would take care of her sons if anything happened. Then late last year, his mother contracted pneumonia and entered hospital.
‘The next day, the nurse called me and asked me to come and get Lynda’s boys,’ she said.
‘Lynda didn’t have much longer to live so I immediately rushed to the hospital and spoke to Lynda and told her that I would keep my word and take care of her sons.
‘The boys were there and able to say their goodbyes to their mother and they were all crying. Within five minutes, Lynda passed away.’
When the brothers and their dogs moved in with her family in the Lantana Cascade mobile home community, she told Nikolas he could not bring his guns.
Nikolas Cruz stayed with her for less than a month after his mother’s death, but during that time, she said she and her family members were forced to call 911 three times.
Her son called after her mother, who was living with her, found a receipt for a gun Cruz bought from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
‘When the police came we told them about the purchase of the gun and that we were very concerned,’ she said.
‘I asked them if we could stop him from getting the gun that he purchased. They said they couldn’t stop him from buying or having possession of a gun.
‘I told them that Nicholas was 19 years old but I felt that mentally and emotionally he was similar to a 12-year-old.’
Nikolas Cruz showed disturbing tendencies prior to the shooting, Rocxanne Deschamps said
Deschamps said that on another occasion she saw Cruz digging a hole in the backyard, with a large, empty gun box nearby – but she was told by police that again there was nothing unlawful in what he was doing.
On a third occasion she saw Nikolas Cruz punching holes in her walls and then got punched herself by him.
‘I told the officers that I was concerned that Nikolas would come back with a gun,’ she said. ‘I told the police about prior incidents that I knew of in which Nikolas had put a gun to his mother’s head and to his brother’s head.
‘I also told them about other warning signs. I was very concerned that the gun, which he had purchased, might be brought into my house or that he might get the gun and use it to harm himself or others. [But] law enforcement said that nothing could be done.’
The agencies argue that although they had some contact with Cruz in relation to prior incidents, there were no indications he was going to do what he did.
After he left the house and moved in with another family, she stayed in touch with him. ‘The day before the shooting, Nikolas texted,’ she said. ‘He was worried about the dogs.’
Cruz has admitted killing 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14.
His brother, Zachary Cruz, was arrested Monday on the charge of trespassing at the school, and prosecutors on Tuesday argued he was a threat to the community.
Zachary was ordered held on $500,000 bond.
Deschamps said someone in Cruz’s mental condition should never have been allowed to buy guns, and that she supported the March for Our Lives events this weekend to press for tougher gun laws.