Parkland shooter described as ‘loving kid,’ ‘gentle soul’ and ‘menace to society’

·2 min read

Editor’s note: Daily coverage of the Parkland trial is being provided to all readers as a public service.

The Parkland mass shooter was described in court Friday as a “loving kid” and “gentle soul” who descended into violent outbursts when he lost his temper, often while playing video games that did not go his way.

Lynda Cruz confided that her home had “polka-dotted walls” because of how often she had to spackle them after almost daily tantrums by her son, Nikolas, who took to punching and kicking walls to vent his frustration.

“First of all he is a sore loser, and I think his low self-esteem is a factor too,” his mother reported in a document introduced into evidence by defense witness Liliana Pardo-Posse, a former social worker for the Broward school district who worked at Westglades Middle School.

One parent of another student called Cruz a “menace to society” because of his angry outbursts in class, according to the same document.

In an interview with the social worker, Lynda Cruz complained her son had not been getting the expert help he needed.

“He needs to be properly diagnosed before he can be treated,” she told her. “I know ADD is not the cause of all his problems. We need to know what is wrong with him.”

Lynda Cruz, who died in 2017, also complained of her son’s lack of emotional control.

“First of all, he is a sore loser and I think his low self-esteem is a factor too,” she said. “But something is very wrong with him, don’t know what. I know he has ADD but [that] does not explain his behaviors.”

Lynda Cruz told of Nikolas kicking and throwing things and punching holes in the walls over the tiniest things.

He gets upset “every day, especially while playing Xbox,” she told the social worker. “He can’t stand to lose, gets angry and curses at people playing with him.”

Defense witnesses have repeatedly testified that Nikolas Cruz was bullied as a child by his younger brother, Zachary, and that the two of them were more than their mother could handle.

Lynda Cruz was in her late 40s and early 50s when she adopted the boys as babies. Her husband Roger Cruz was in his 60s.

Cruz, 23, has confessed to killing 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in a Valentine’s Day massacre in 2018.

He faces the death penalty for each of the 17 murders he committed. Defense lawyers are introducing testimony about Cruz and his mental health in a bid to convince jurors he was in a lifelong battle for control of his own behavior.

A jury’s unanimous vote is required to sentence Cruz to death; otherwise he will be sentenced to life in prison.

The jury will have a break next week, with testimony resuming on Sept. 12.

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan. Rafael Olmeda can be reached at rolmeda@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4457 or on Twitter @rolmeda