“I know he’s going to explode,” a woman who knew Mr. Cruz said on the F.B.I.’s tip line on Jan. 5. Her big worry was that he might resort to slipping “into a school and just shooting the place up.” Forty days later, Mr. Cruz is accused of doing just that, barging into his former high school in Parkland, Fla., and shooting 17 people to death.
Three months before the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a family friend dialed 911 to tell the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office about Mr. Cruz’s personal arsenal. “I need someone here because I’m afraid he comes back and he has a lot of weapons,” the friend said.
Mr. Cruz, 19, himself called the authorities just after Thanksgiving, describing how he had been in a fight and was struggling with the death of his mother. “The thing is I lost my mother a couple of weeks ago, so like I am dealing with a bunch of things right now,” he said in a childlike voice, sounding agitated and out of breath.
The authorities have acknowledged mishandling numerous warning signs that Mr. Cruz was deeply troubled. There were tips to the F.B.I. about disturbing social media posts. There were visits by social services to his home. There were dozens of calls to 911 and the local authorities, some mentioning fears that he was capable of violence.
The rest of the story details threats and actions that could form the bases for civil commitment or at least criminal arrest, so it isn't clear why Cruz wasn't taken into custody by police. Perhaps no one was willing to testify to his actions because they didn't want to see him arrested or because they feared retaliation from Cruz. Or the police declined to follow up for reasons unknown.
When I first heard that no action was taken against Cruz after numerous warnings, I suspected it was because Cruz hadn't committed an actual crime or because his statements and actions didn't constitute sufficient basis for involuntary civil commitment. Civil commitment is more difficult than many people believe. But after reading the Times piece, it looks to me like there was a basis for arrest and a reasonable basis for at least a brief hospitalization and assessment, what we'd call a 3-day in my state.
One additional observation: I've heard people on line calling Cruz a sociopath and a psychopath. Could be, but I see something else as well. When his attorney said he feels deep remorse, many scoffed. While it's true that his remorse is utterly meaningless in relation to the scale of misery his savage cruelty has caused, I will say that he may indeed feel remorse. In any case, this young man desperately needed serious help and, tragically, it was not made available or he refused it.