Editor's Note: Headline has been changed to reflect accuracy.
UPDATE: Well, this story took another turn, with local law enforcement saying they found no ties between Cruz and the Republic of Florida (via Tallahassee Democrat):
Local law enforcement sources have so far not found a connection between accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz and a Tallahassee-based paramilitary group.
Leon County law enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they could not find information linking Cruz, 19, to the Republic of Florida Militia, as first reported by the group’s self-proclaimed leader Jordan Jereb.
Leon County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Grady Jordan said investigative work Thursday did not yield any connections.
“We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ORF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” Jordan said.
Jordan and other law enforcement sources declined to confirm whether they had spoken to Jereb on Thursday.
Jereb said that Cruz was a member of his organization earlier today, though now says he was confused when questioned. This story is still developing.
To recap:— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
-The anti-Nazi ADL calls a white nationalist to ask him about rumors the mass shooter was in his militia.
-To everyone's surprise, the white nationalist leader *TELLS THE ADL*... yes, he was!
-Cops look into it; are baffled
-White nationalist leader SAYS HE GOT CONFUSED
UPDATE II: It looks like we're been duped, folks. Our apologies...
FYI: As far as I can tell, nobody has been able to 100% verify the "Republic of Florida" leader's claims that Nikolas Cruz was part of his white nationalist group.— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
If it's some kind of hoax, by Jereb or someone else, needless to say it is an enormously, *enormously* stupid one.— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
Here are some trolls who claimed they conned ABC News as part of a prank on Jordan Jereb: https://t.co/5hQfMNcz7M— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
ABC News said they spoke to "three former schoolmates" (unnamed) connecting Cruz to the group. https://t.co/LkDozprtkq— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
From what I've been able to dig up, Jereb is a very marginal guy within the movement (which is, itself, pretty marginal already). And now everybody's distancing themselves from him.— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
If everybody got suckered, it's probably because making a claim like this is like shooting a flare gun at the FBI and screaming "COME RAID MY COMPOUND AND INTERROGATE ALL MY ALLIES"— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) February 15, 2018
The ADL used 4Chan as a source, CBS used the ADL as a source.— Tim Pool (@Timcast) February 16, 2018
welcome to the future. pic.twitter.com/rBj61SUZC8
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.— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) February 15, 2018
Local law enforcement are now saying there are "no known ties" between Cruz and Jereb. pic.twitter.com/wvU4wN2B1z
Nikolas Cruz committed an act of unspeakable evil yesterday. He ventured back to his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, in Parkland, Florida, and shot and killed 17 people. He wounded at least a dozen more. Whether he was flagged as a threat to students in the past remains to be confirmed. The Miami Herald reported that Cruz, who was expelled from the school, was the subject of a warning email last year from the administration, flagging him as a threat and stating he was not allowed on campus with a backpack.
Cruz was initially reported as an associate of a local white nationalist group, Republic of Florida, but that seems doubtful, as local law enforcement could find no evidence of any such ties. The leader of the group, saying he was misunderstood and confused when questioned. ABC News reported on the now-debunked link, with the Associated Press tweeting about it as well. It's a dead end, folks. CBS News had the story of the ROF's leader, Jordan Jereb, backtracking on his initial remarks:
The leader of a white nationalist militia Thursday night appeared to walk back his earlier statements that Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his group. Law enforcement in Tallahassee, Florida, said they had no record of Cruz being part of the organization.
Jordan Jereb, the leader of Republic of Florida, told the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Thursday that Cruz participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee. Someone posting under his name on Gab, a social media site popular with far-right extremists, complained about getting criticized over a "prank," claimed there was a "misunderstanding" and said he received "a bunch of conflicting information."
Yet, Cruz was previously reported to the FBI for making disturbing comments on a YouTube page (via Miami Herald):
Thursday morning, the FBI special agent in charge for South Florida told reporters that agents — after “reviews and checks” — could not identify the user behind the YouTube comment.
“We were unable to identify the person who made the comment,” said Rob Lasky said at a press conference, also saying that no other information was included with that comment which would “indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment.”
Ben Bennight, a Gulfport bail bondsman who goes by “Ben the Bondsman” on YouTube, said in a video posted Wednesday night that he spoke to FBI agents in September about a comment left on one of his videos by someone with the username “nikolas cruz.”
“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the commenter wrote.
In the video, Bennight says he immediately reported the comment to YouTube and to the local FBI field office. The next day, agents were in his business asking about the comment.
“I knew that I couldn’t just ignore that,” he said on the video he posted.
On Wednesday, FBI agents in Mississippi and South Florida contacted Bennight again in the hours after the shooting to ask questions about the disturbing comment.
There will be many stories about what could have been done to prevent this shooting. With Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter, his rampage could have been prevented if his disturbing behavior had been properly reported. He would have lost his clearance, barring him from the facility. Now, this YouTube user did the right thing reporting this to the FBI, but it went nowhere. A lot of what is said on social media needs to be taken with a grain of salt, especially in the comments section. Bennight alluded to this point saying, "I wish that the information could have prevented this from happening, but it was a generic comment, and you know, people say things. Keyboard commandos type things all the time that they don’t mean.”
Still, this FBI angle seems to be a bit odd, no?
He used his own name as his YouTube handle. https://t.co/uovFXd4Itq— jon gabriel (@exjon) February 15, 2018
So it's another one where the authorities knew about the guy, but concluded there was nothing to be done. Added to Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Pulse, and Sutherland Springs.— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) February 15, 2018