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.’
The couple penned the letter acknowledging their mistakes to satisfy one of the conditions of settling a barrage of civil lawsuits that had been 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 Sneads 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.
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 his 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.
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 three 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 red flags 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.
‘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 2018.
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.