Update, Feb. 15, 6:40 p.m.: After media outlets began reporting Jereb’s claims about Cruz being affiliated with the ROF, a spokesperson for the Leon County Sheriff’s Office told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, “We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter.” A law enforcement source also told the Associated Press after its reporters talked to Jereb that there were “no known ties” between Cruz and a white supremacist group. Jereb himself has apparently taken to Gab, a “free speech” alternative to Twitter popular with the far right, to backtrack on the claims he made.
Original Post: The Republic of Florida, a militant white supremacist organization, admitted to the Anti-Defamation League and others that the 19-year-old charged with murdering 17 people in Wednesday’s Florida high school shooting had ties to the group.
A man claiming to be Jordan Jereb, the purported leader of the group, told the ADL over the phone that alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz was “brought up” by a fellow member, attended at least one ROF training exercise in Tallahassee, and carpooled with other people in the ROF. Jereb and three of Cruz’s former schoolmates also told ABC News that he was part of the group, and the Anti-Defamation League found that 4chan users identifying themselves as ROF members have posted comments to the same effect. The former schoolmates added that they had repeatedly seen Cruz with Jereb and in ROF marches.
Jereb claimed to ABC and the ADL that the organization had neither ordered nor wanted Cruz to carry out an attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Jereb made the same point to the Associated Press, asserting that Cruz “acted on his own behalf” and is “solely responsible for what he just did.” The ROF leader conjectured that the timing of the attack on Valentine’s Day was purposeful because Cruz had “trouble with a girl.”
The ROF describes itself on its website as a “white civil rights organization” aiming to create an ethnostate. Its short-term goals are to “occupy urban areas to recruit suburban young whites.” According to the Anti-Defamation League, the white supremacist group has a presence in North Florida and South Florida, and has adopted paramilitary principles from anti-government militias. It is a few years old, and its members are primarily young white men. Jereb himself is 22 years old and was charged in 2016 for threatening one of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s staffers.
In an August 2017 video about the clashing protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Jereb spoke of a coming civil war and warned “leftists” that their “actions and … worldview will very shortly lead to your own annihilation (and I don’t say that lightly.)”
Media outlets have discovered multiple pieces of evidence since Wednesday indicating that Cruz had white supremacist leanings. The Daily Beast quoted Ocean Parodie, a student who formerly attended school with Cruz, as saying, “He always wore like really patriotic shirts that seemed really extreme, like hating on the Islamic religion. For example, he would say things such as like, he would degrade Islamic people as terrorists and bombers. I’ve seen him wear a Trump hat.” Other students have said he was obsessed with guns.
Heavy.com also found a now-deleted Instagram account apparently belonging to Cruz, which featured images of guns, and knives, and a post that appears to contain an anti-Muslim slur. One profile picture shows him wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.