Search warrants filed in Nikolas Cruz case show hunt for motive

MIAMI -- Investigators with the Broward County Sheriff's Office filed 16 search warrants at the Broward Courthouse Friday in the Nikolas Cruz murder case, CBS Miami reports. Investigators have been digging into Cruz's life in the days following the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the court documents show how deeply they're searching Cruz's digital footprint for evidence of motive and planning. 

Cruz lived a chunk of his life online. Some of his posts show him with guns and other weapons, talking about killing wildlife and discussing purchasing firearms.

As investigators build their case, they filed more than a dozen search warrants Friday to target accounts believed to belong to Cruz on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, Uber and Google.

Ken Padowitz, who is a defense attorney and former prosecutor, is not connected to the Cruz case, but he offered insight into the potential information recovered through the search warrants. 

"They can look at not only what is written by an individual, by a defendant, but they can also look at time stamps, they can look at potential locations," Padowitz said. "So there may be all kinds of evidence, crucial evidence, that can be gleaned by prosecutors by scouring social media sites."

The comment made by a user called Nikolas Cruz on YouTube in 2016 about being a professional school shooter is mentioned in the search warrants as well.   

Investigators wants to see:

  • "All communications and/or images which tend to establish the pre-planning and premeditation of Suspect Nikolas Cruz to commit the crime of murder."
  • "All communications and/or images after the murder which tend to establish the identity of Cruz and any motives for Cruz to commit the crime of murder."
  • "All communications and/or images which tend (to) show ownership/possession of the firearms utilized in the mass shooting…"

CBS Miami was told Cruz's social media accounts were shut down the day after the murders, but some of the biggest social media companies in the world were served with these search warrants in the days following the violence to help detectives piece together Cruz's actions, motives and state of mind in the days leading up to the school shooting.

The day after the shooting, detectives filed a search warrant to search through six computers, four phones and an Xbox seized at an undisclosed location in Palm Beach County. The search warrant does not indicate who the devices belong to or where they were taken from. However, it reads that detectives are looking or "any and all GPS and or Geolocation data as it relates to murders as set forth in the probable cause section, showing any pre-planning or scouting of the crime scene leading up to and including February 14, 2018." That's the day Cruz is accused of murdering 17 people and wounding 14 others at his former high school. 

There are also clues at the school in the investigation. Detectives made a formal request for the "footage from over 70 cameras located in and around the school." They're also requesting drone images be taken of the school and the surrounding areas as part of determining precisely what unfolded that day and to get "measurements obtained by use of photographs."

A spokesperson for the Broward Sheriff's Office would not comment on the warrants or the value of what they recovered as a result of them.

The search warrants indicate that investigators received digital content from the social media companies.

Also in court Friday, prosecutors filed half a dozen subpoenas. They are seeking Cruz's school records from Broward and Palm Beach County, mental health records from three facilities, and medical records on Cruz from the Broward Health system.

FILE PHOTO:    Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend a memorial following a school shooting incident in Parkland

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend a memorial following a school shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018.