LANTANA, Fla. — Three months before accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at his former high school, he lived in a Lantana, Florida trailer park with his dead mother’s best friend and his 17-year-old brother.
During Cruz’s brief stay in Palm Beach County, deputies were called to the trailer three times in one month for a fight, a welfare check and report of a weapon.
The information may provide more insight into the mind of the 19-year-old man charged with 17 counts of murder after he allegedly took his AR-15 to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
A missing photograph
After misplacing a photo of his dead mother, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz punched a hole in the wall of a Lantana trailer he lived in and started to ‘break things’.
A man inside the home, 22-year-old Rock Deschamps, tried restraining Cruz, but both sides threw punches. Eventually, Deschamps called 911.
When Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived, they found Cruz sitting in the neighborhood park. Cruz was “nervous and calm”, according to the report, but mostly Cruz “was sorry for losing his temper”.
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Deschamps told deputies Cruz had been “going through a lot” with the loss of his mother and “did not want [Cruz] to go to jail.” The two young men hugged it out in front of deputies, and life in the Lantana trailer park returned to normal.
That was November 28. Two-and-a-half months later, Cruz would admit to killing 17 people at his former campus, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, with his personal AR-15 on Valentine’s Day.
Buried in the backyard
Four days before Cruz misplaced his mother’s photograph, Deschamps called 911 while Cruz was at work. This time, Deschamps asked deputies to investigate whether Cruz had a gun buried in the backyard.
According to the report, Deschamps told deputies “there were no weapons allowed” in the home, and claimed Cruz may have buried a weapon on the property.
The report does not say if deputies ever contacted Cruz about the incident, or if they found any weapons.
The day before deputies watched Deschamps and Cruz hug it out in the neighborhood park, a social worker from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School asked them to check on Cruz’s 17-year-old brother at the Lantana trailer.
The social worker told dispatchers the teen had not shown up for class since his mother died, but added he “was never dis-enrolled from school in Broward to attend any other school”.
Lynda Cruz, who adopted the biological Cruz brothers when Nikolas was two-years-old, and his younger brother was two-months-old, died Nov. 1st from pneumonia. The Douglas High School social worker did not call deputies until Nov. 27, almost one month later.
According to the report, the social worker was concerned the 17-year-old’s caretaker, Roxanne Deschamps (Rock Deschamps’ mother), had yet to file for guardianship.
When PBSO deputies arrived to check on the child, they were told to come back later. The report does not say if deputies had any further contact.
‘She was like my mom’
According to Broward County court records, Roxanne Deschamps recently asked a judge for control of Lynda Cruz’s estate. Deschamps filed the paperwork on Feb. 15, one day after Cruz shot up his former high school.
The next day, on Feb. 16, Palm Beach Sheriff deputies involuntarily committed Cruz’s 17-year-old brother to a mental institution.
In an interview a day after the shooting, Deschamps explained her relationship with the Cruz family.
"We were best friends," said Deschamps. "We started as neighbors, and then became best friends. She was like my mom."
Property records confirm the two women lived on the same street in Parkland, and records from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office show the Cruz household was no stranger to dialing 911.
Between 2010 and January 2017 (when Lynda Cruz sold her Parkland home), deputies were called almost 40 times to the Cruz residence for incidents like domestic disturbance, mentally ill person, child/elderly abuse, and juvenile disturbance.
Deschamps admitted during an interview to taking in the Cruz brothers after their mother’s death because of her relationship with Lynda. "I am doing the best that I can with those children and I am doing it for free,” Deschamps said. “I am doing it out of my heart, because I loved their mom."
A Facebook post by Deschamps' ex-fiancé claims she kicked Cruz out of the trailer shortly after his mom died. Deschamps asked our investigative team to stop recording, but off camera she claimed the allegations were false.
It is not clear when Cruz left Lantana or why, but when Cruz left, his younger brother stayed with Deschamps in the Lantana trailer.
"What happened is nobody's responsibility,” said Deschamps. “Except that [Cruz] has mental issues, and that is all we can do."