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A student who says she reported warning signs about the suspect in the Parkland school tragedy more than a year before last week’s mass shooting said her friendship with him quickly turned to fear in the years leading up to the massacre.
Ariana Lopez said she was friends with Nikolas Cruz when he first joined Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School three years ago, but the friendship quickly deteriorated.
“I knew that something like this would happen,” Lopez told NBC 6. “He made it very clear to other people that he was dangerous.”
Lopez said she watched and worried as Cruz posted disturbing photos to social media, including a collection of rifles and a fascination with shooting and killing animals.
“The way that he talked about hunting so often and like the misery of the animals was just very alarming,” she said.
Lopez, 17, said Cruz’s behavior eventually showed up in the classroom.
“He used to sell knives at school and stick them in his lunch box, sometimes it was just a brown paper bag he’d bring around and he’d say ‘hey guys, wanna but some knives?'” Lopez said. “Nick was not a kid that was bullied, he was not a kid that was harassed, he did the bullying and the harassing. He instilled fear in innocent people for fun.”
Lopez said Cruz began to threaten her and other classmates.
“Him verbally assaulting us, talking about killing us, doing things to our corpses, killing our parents, friends and family and all of this was right there,” she said. “As a teenager I shouldn’t have to look over my shoulder and see some creepy kid that I know because he’s talking about killing me.”
The threats were reported to the school numerous times by Lopez.
“A ridiculous amount to the point where my parents and I actually had a conversation where they told me I’d need to stop because I was going to the office almost every single day because it didn’t stop,” she said.
Lopez said the school counselors recorded her concerns and encouraged her to report anything alarming. But Cruz remained a student until he was expelled for getting into a fight.
Officials with Broward County Schools didn’t immediately comment on Lopez’s claims but said they are receiving a high volume of media requests and are working to respond as quickly as possible.
As students fled the school on Wednesday, Lopez locked herself in a closet and waited. When she emerged she learned that many of her friends were killed and her former friend, Cruz, was the suspect.
“I shouldn’t have to sit in a closet with 50 other kids because we think we are going to die, no kid should have to go to school being scared that they’re going to get shot by someone they know or don’t know,” she said. “I want this stopped because my friends shouldn’t have to go to school and stand in front of each other to block each other from bullets, I shouldn’t have friends that are in the hospital because their friend who died covered them.”
Cruz, 19, is facing 17 counts of murder in the shooting. Lopez said she was attending two funerals Tuesday.
“I don’t want to be angry because then he wins, I don’t want to be upset because then he wins, I don’t want to blame anyone or point fingers because that’s just how they win and I can’t do that right now,” Lopez said.