On Valentine’s Day, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz regenerated an all too rapidly returning national grief cycle. The South Florida man stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and executed 17 people. By early Thursday morning, Cruz was booked into a Broward County jail and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

As news media and community members tried to decipher the story, familiar issues arose: America’s easy access to and deification of guns, the prevalence of masculine rage, and which kinds of shooters not only receive humane treatment by police but also sensitive reporting about their lives after they commit heinous acts.

While early reports stated Cruz was apprehended “without incident,” others will recall how police shot and killed Florida State shooter Myron May in 2014, who was Black. Early reports about Cruz did not include his photo, but emphasized the economic footing of many people in the affected community. 

Writers connected Cruz’s actions to everything from grief about his mother’s death to depression to generalized weirdness to disinterest from the opposite sex. Some reports called him a “troubled kid,” as if a 19-year-old person is not of majority age.

Another wrinkle came after a Mississippi bail bondsman named Ben Bennight told the New York Times that last fall he reported a suspicious YouTube comment by a user named “nikolas cruz.”

“I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” the Sept. 24 comment said. Bennight screen-shotted the comment and alerted YouTube. YouTube removed the comment. Bennight said he left a message at his local F.B.I. field office about the user’s post.

“We live in a country where you can’t just lock people away for saying something,” Bennight, said. “You can’t just stuff somebody in a black hole because they said something that makes you uncomfortable. I believe the F.B.I. took it seriously. I hope that they followed up.”

Like many parents throughout America, Bennight expressed fear about mass shootings. “It scares me for my children,” he said.

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