BROWARD COUNTY, Ga. - The leader of a white nationalist militia says Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.
Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. He said his group holds "spontaneous random demonstrations" and tries not to participate in the modern world.
Jereb said he didn't know Cruz personally and that "he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he's solely responsible for what he just did."
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He also said he had "trouble with a girl" and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine's Day, wasn't a coincidence.
Nineteen-year-old Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the shooting.
The shooting was the nation’s deadliest school attack since a gunman assaulted an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.
Meanwhile, students struggled to describe the violence that ripped through their classrooms on an ordinary day just before classes were to be dismissed.
Catarina Linden, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she was in an advanced math class Wednesday when the gunfire began.
“He shot the girl next to me,” she said, adding that when she finally was able to leave the classroom, the air was foggy with gun smoke. “I stepped on so many shell casings. There were bodies on the ground, and there was blood everywhere.”
Among the dead: a football coach who also worked as a security guard, a senior who planned to attend Lynn University, an athletic director who was active in his Roman Catholic church.
Some bodies remained inside the high school Thursday as authorities analyzed the crime scene. Thirteen wounded survivors were still hospitalized, including two in critical condition.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story
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