UPDATE: As of Thursday evening, law enforcement officials in Florida have reportedly not yet confirmed that a link exists between the Parkland school shooting suspect and the white supremacist paramilitary group Republic of Florida. ROF’s Jordan Jereb has not supplied evidence for his initial claim that the shooting suspect was associated with his group, and he later walked back his statements. Additional reporting by HuffPost has not found any credible links between the two. The claim was nevertheless widely reported, including in a headline on HuffPost’s front page.
The Republic of Florida, a white nationalist militia, claimed Thursday that the man charged in Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, had been involved in some of its activities.
Jordan Jereb, a leader within the group, told The Associated Press that shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz had participated in the group’s paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.
Jereb also told the Anti-Defamation League that Cruz had carpooled to the training exercises with other members of the group. He said Cruz had been “brought up” by a member of ROF, though it was not clear what this meant.
HuffPost was unable to confirm that Cruz is affiliated with ROF. Jereb did not respond to multiple requests for comment or proof of his group’s ties to the shooter. But there is reason to doubt Jereb’s claims. He lives in Tallahassee, about 430 miles away from where the shooting took place. And he has sought out attention for himself and ROF.
“While almost every neo-Nazi, militiaman, nativist and racist despises the Intelligence Report, Jereb wanted desperately to be mentioned in these pages. He flooded us with pleas for attention,” the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about him in 2014.
Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Jereb told the AP that Cruz had “trouble with a girl” and thinks that may have been linked to him carrying out the attack on Valentine’s Day.
Jereb also told The Daily Beast that ROF bought Cruz at least one of his guns. He speculated that Cruz’s training with the group helped him carry out Wednesday’s massacre.
“I’m not trying to glorify it, but he was pretty efficient in what he did,” Jereb said. “He probably used that training to do what he did.”
The ROF, which says it seeks to establish a “white ethnostate” in Florida, did not order Cruz to carry out the shooting, Jereb told the ADL. However, attacks carried out by groups like the Republic of Florida are on the rise: Murders by white supremacists more than doubled in 2017 compared to the year before, according to an ADL report released last week.
Less than two months ago, a 21-year-old man who was fixated on violence against Jews and who posted on The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist site, shot and killed two students at a New Mexico high school.
On its website, the ROF admits to being a “violent” group and says its members are prepared to kill or hospitalize anyone they view as a serious physical threat.
The group also describes feminists as “miserable young gals with absolutely no direction in their life.”
Jereb told The Daily Beast that Cruz’s hatred of feminism “could’ve played into what he did” on Wednesday.
He then went on to offer an alternative theory.
“We’re not a big fan of Jews,” he said. “I think there were a lot of Jews at the school that might have been messing with him.”
Jessica Schulberg contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.