Editor’s Note: Numerous news outlets, including TPM, reported Thursday on claims made by Jordan Jereb, the leader of a Florida white supremacist group, that Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter in the Parkland school shooting, was a member of Jereb’s group. Within hours, several experts and observers had cast doubt on those claims. And on Thursday afternoon, Jereb appeared to walk back the claims in social media posts. As a result, we’ve substantially updated our original story on Jereb’s claims to reflect the new information.
Jordan Jereb, the leader of a Florida white nationalist group, initially claimed on Thursday that Nikolas Cruz, who is alleged to have killed 17 people in a school shooting on Wednesday, was a member of his organization.
But within hours, it appeared that Jereb had walked back that claim. Jereb says he leads the group Republic of Florida (ROF), a white supremacist organization seeking the “creation of a white ethnostate.”
Someone posting under the name “Jordan Jereb” on Gab, a social media website frequently used by white nationalists, suggested he had been mistaken in claiming Cruz was a member of the group.
The Anti-Defamation League first relayed Jereb’s claims that Cruz was a member of ROF.
And ABC News reported that three former schoolmates of Cruz’s, who were unnamed in the report, had said he was a member of the group, too. The report said the schoolmates claimed Cruz “marched with the group frequently,” and that they’d seen Cruz and Jereb “often” together.
However, soon after these reports emerged, Lt. Grady Jordan of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office told the Tallahassee Democrat that the office hadn’t found a connection between Cruz and the group.
Experts and reporters who follow the white nationalist movement expressed doubt over Jereb’s claims, and commenters on servers known for movement chatter have claimed the stories of Cruz’s affiliation with the group are a hoax.
Asked about the reports later Thursday afternoon, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who is investigating the school shooting, said “it’s not confirmed at this time. There’s so much– we’ve heard that. We’re looking into that. And we’ll just keep following on with that.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, in a blog post on its website, said of Jereb: “It may seem odd that Jereb would bring attention to his group by claiming a connection to Cruz, but Jereb has always been somewhat of a publicity seeker. In 2014, in fact, he wrote us to complain that we had not already listed ROF as a hate group. In April 2017, Michael Tubbs, the leader of the Florida chapter of the League of the South, a well-known hate group, wrote that Jereb ‘never misses a photo op’ and called him ‘a nut job who should be avoided.’”