This post has been updated.
Nikolas Cruz, the 19 year-old gunman who murdered seventeen people at a Florida high school yesterday, trained with a white supremacist militia group last year.
Jordan Jereb, a spokesman for the so-called Republic of Florida who also seems to be its leader, confirmed the relationship to the Anti-Defamation League and the Associated Press. He denied “ordering” Cruz to commit his act of terrorism.
Cruz entered the freshmen center at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday with an AR-15 and shot 31 people, initially escaping disguised as a student before he was identified and arrested. In a sinister YouTube comment, Cruz had recently stated his intention to become a “professional school shooter.”
Cruz’s social media trail included a photo of him wearing a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” hat. Nevertheless, within an hour of the shooting 4chan trolls were out in force across social media pushing fake news that described Cruz as a left wing activist.
What does it say about American right wingers that a fake antifa Russian troll account can falsely accuse an innocent kid of being Nikolas Cruz and they spread the fake news like wildfire? #ThursdayThoughts pic.twitter.com/EGvdbogeDJ
— Obama🇺🇸🇨🇦Leaf (@ObamaLeaf) February 15, 2018
“After self-described ROF members claimed on the discussion forum 4chan that Cruz had also been a member, the Anti-Defamation League called the ROF hotline and spoke with” Jereb, the ADL blog explains.
ADL describes Republic of Florida as an “alt right white supremacist group” that “borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement.” Their goal is to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.
Republic of Florida’s site leads off with a quote from David Lane, the Neo-Nazi terrorist who coined the 14 words. pic.twitter.com/AWsJiup0RJ
— Zeddy (@Zeddary) February 15, 2018
After confirming Cruz had trained with the ROF Militia, Jereb repeated his claims to the Associated Press.
BREAKING: Leader of white nationalist group has confirmed suspect in Florida school shooting was member of his organization.
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 15, 2018
Three former classmates have also told ABC News that Cruz has been seen with Jereb before. Contacted for comment, Jereb told ABC “that he has not spoken to Cruz in ‘some time’ but said ‘he knew he would getting this call.'”
“He would not comment further but emphasized that his group was not a terrorist organization.”
The ADL blog notes that “If Cruz’s role is confirmed, the Parkland school shooting would be the second school shooting by a white supremacist in the past two months.”
“In December 2017, another young white supremacist, William Atchison, engaged in a shooting spree at a high school in northwest New Mexico, killing two students before shooting himself.”
Jereb confirmed that Cruz took part in at least one “exercise.” A YouTube video the group posted in April 2017 shows members of the militia training for military and SWAT team-style “operations.”
Titled “Best Training Moments,” the video is set to blaring electric guitar music. It depicts four people awkwardly learning to salute, mimicking unarmed combat, entering a building, and low crawling on their elbows.
In a video posted to the group’s Twitter account yesterday, Jordan Jereb announced plans to pass out “propaganda” to the public while wearing tactical garb.
Nikolas Cruz has been arraigned and charged with 17 counts of murder.
UPDATE – All may not be as it seems here. In an unusual statement, Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center says that Jereb is a publicity hound. “In 2014, in fact, he wrote us to complain that we had not already listed ROF as a hate group.”
“In April 2017, Michael Tubbs, the leader of the Florida chapter of the League of the South, a well-known hate group, wrote that Jereb ‘never misses a photo op’ and called him ‘a nut job who should be avoided,'” Beirich explains.
Jereb appears to have walked his story back in white supremacist social media.
Jordan Jereb, the ADL’s source on the Florida shooter’s ties to white supremacist groups, is now backtracking on Gab, claiming that he lied, or was underslept and made a mistake.
Local law enforcement are now saying there are “no known ties” between Cruz and Jereb. pic.twitter.com/wvU4wN2B1z
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) February 15, 2018
Local law enforcement has cast doubt on the story. A Leon County Sheriffs Department spokesman said “we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter.”
Forbes journalist J.J. MacNabb, who specializes in covering anti-government extremism and has monitored Jereb for years, is treating the story as yet another 4chan hoax.
ABC quotes three former schoolmates. This is weird because Jereb lives 430 miles from the shooter and the school pic.twitter.com/LPBB1C2vGH
— JJ MacNab (@jjmacnab) February 15, 2018
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Featured images via screengrab/Republic of Florida.