A Florida white supremacist group says that Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with murdering 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was a member. The group, known as Republic of Florida, told the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), that Cruz “participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida.”
The ADL spoke with a man identifying himself as Jordan Jereb, who is thought to be the leader of the group. Jereb claimed “ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting.”
“He probably used that training to do what he did yesterday. Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out,” Jereb told the Daily Beast. “I know he knew full well he was joining a white separatists paramilitary proto-fascist organization.”
A leader of the group made the same claim to the Associated Press.
BREAKING: Leader of white nationalist group has confirmed suspect in Florida school shooting was member of his organization.
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 15, 2018
ABC News talked to three Cruz’s classmates who said “Cruz was part of the group.” His classmates “claimed he marched with the group frequently and was often seen with Jereb.”
The ADL learned of Cruz’s involvement with the Republic of Florida through the 4chan messaging board, a unmoderated online forum that has been known to perpetrate hoaxes.
Jereb who described his relationship with Cruz in more detail to the Daily Beast:
“There’s a very real sense of feminism being a cancer. That could’ve played into what he did, but we have female members of RoF,” Jereb said, adding that “we’re not a big fan of Jews. I think there were a lot of Jews at the school that might have been messing with him.”
Jereb said Cruz belonged to a RoF “cell” from Clearwater and drove up with members to Tallahassee to do paramilitary training…
“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 yesterday. Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out.”
A call by ThinkProgress to the Republic of Florida hotline listed on their website was not picked up. The group describes themselves as “a white civil rights organization fighting for white Identitarian politics, And the ultimate creation of a white ethnostate so we can be free from anti-white policies and have policies that reflect our values as white westerners.” It also claims to maintain “armed forces.”
The group’s website echoes themes and images commonly found on white-supremacist sections of the internet. For example their flag has a Celtic cross, which is a favored tattoo design among white supremacist prison gangs and the KKK. The Triskele symbol, which is also on their flag, has also been extensively used by white nationalists.
Here he is meeting with Traditionalist Workers Party’s Matthew Heimbach. One of the prominent white nationalists in the country, and leads group profiled in the NYT’s “Nazi next door” story pic.twitter.com/tLDxnJkbnW
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) February 15, 2018
The group also describes Islam as a “military doctrine” and describes itself as a “Christian Organization with a few Odinists.” There is also a section devoted to “Alpha Males versus Beta Males”, language commonly echoed among the far-right sections of the internet. The level of “training” that ROF achieved is debatable — one video shows them gearing up to catch teenagers smoking pot. However another post shows Jordan Jereb meeting with Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Workers Party, a white supremacist group which was at the Charlottesville rally and also previously protested with Richard Spencer.
ThinkProgress has contacted the FBI for comment about the Republic of Florida.