Officials Wanted Parkland Shooting Suspect 'Forcibly Committed' In 2016: Report

Being involuntarily committed to a mental institution could have made it much harder for Nikolas Cruz to get a gun. So why didn't it happen?

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old man who police say killed 17 people when he opened fire at a Florida high school in February, seemed so mentally unstable in 2016 that officials wanted him “forcibly committed” to a psychiatric hospital, reported the Associated Press.

Two school counselors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as well as a Broward County sheriff’s deputy, recommended in September 2016 that Cruz undergo a mental health examination, according to documents used in the criminal case against Cruz and obtained by the AP. 

The documents, provided by mental health facility Henderson Behavioral Health, reportedly described disturbing examples of Cruz’s behavior, such as cutting his arm after breaking up with his girlfriend, telling a classmate that he wanted to buy a gun and use it, and telling another that he threw up after drinking gasoline.

Cruz’s mother contacted Henderson Behavioral Health to initiate the psychological assessment of her son in 2016, the AP reported.

Despite the officials’ concerns, there is no evidence that Cruz was involuntarily committed. If he had been, Cruz would have had a much harder time getting a gun since federal law prohibits individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution from purchasing or possessing firearms. 

The sheriff’s deputy referenced in the documents obtained by the AP is Scot Peterson, who resigned in February after it was reported that he remained outside of the school during the Parkland school massacre and did not attempt to engage the gunman. 

Under Florida’s Baker Act, involuntary commitment of a person may be initiated by an official, including a judge, mental health physician or law enforcement officer, such as Peterson.

It’s unclear who received the officials’ recommendation to commit Cruz and why it was not acted upon, according to the AP. Representatives for Peterson, Broward County Public Schools, and Henderson Behavioral Health did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

Investigators are still working to determine how Cruz was able to legally purchase an AR-15 rifle last year, despite numerous red flags. The Broward County Sheriff’s Department received over a dozen phone calls from concerned community members about Cruz’s behavior between 2008 and 2017. Within days of the Feb. 14 massacre, the FBI admitted it had failed to act on a public tip in January, in which a caller warned Cruz had a “desire to kill people.”

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder, as well as 17 counts of attempted murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted.