A racist group in Florida has admitted that accused high school shooter Nikolas Cruz had attended training events. The Anti-Defamation League released information on February 15, the day after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, that said Cruz was linked to a group known as the Republic of Florida. The group adheres to typical racist and neo-Nazi philosophy such as allegiance to white-European descendant Americans and opposing mixed race and gay marriage.
Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman High School, is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. On the day of the shooting, a thread appeared on the controversial forum 4Chan saying that Cruz was a member of the Republic of Florida. The original 4Chan poster said that Republic of Florida members were saying their only surprise was that the target hadn’t been a government building.
The man purported by many to be the leader of the Republic of Florida, Jordan Jereb, told the ADL that Cruz was brought to the group by another member. Jereb added that Cruz had carpooled with other southern Florida members to attend events in Tallahassee. The leader stressed to the ADL that no orders were ever given regarding a school shooting.
In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Jereb described his group as not willing to “participate in the modern world.” Jereb said that he didn’t know Cruz and that the suspect “acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did.” The white supremacist then alluded to Cruz possibly having trouble with a girl and suggesting that the Valentine’s Day timing of the shooting wasn’t a coincidence.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported in May 2016 that Jereb had been arrested over a $60 debt. Jereb had apparently threatened a “high-ranking member of Gov. Rick Scott’s office.” Jereb was accused of trying to extort money from Stuart Pollins, a policy coordinator. The white supremacist said that Jereb claimed Pollins’ son owed money. In one voicemail that Jereb was accused of leaving on Pollins’ phone, he said, “You don’t mess with me and you don’t mess with the R.O.F.” Another message asked Pollins to “use his imagination” as to what would happen if the debt wasn’t repaid.
WTXL reported in the summer of 2017 that the Republic of Florida was in a period of “resurgence” in Tallahassee. The group first made an appearance on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hatewatch” in 2015. A Tallahassee resident, Jay Godin, who says he was a victim of ROF told WTXL, “I really feel like they’re not any different from a terrorist group in the Middle East or anywhere else — or even just like a gang.” Godin says that he had been repeatedly threatened by the group on social media.
In December 2017, William Atchison killed two students before turning the gun on himself at Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico. Atchison was a regular poster on racist website The Daily Stormer where he went by the monikers, “Future Mass Shooter” and “Adam Lanza.” Atchison had been interviewed by the FBI in 2016 about his online activities, such as asking where he could buy assault rifles for a mass shooting. Atchison evaded investigators by saying he was merely “trolling.” A Daily Beast feature on Atchison referred to him as living “a prolific life as a white supremacist, pro-Trump meme peddler who was most known for his obsession with school shooters.”