Before Nikolas Cruz allegedly killed at least 17 people at a Florida high school, authorities say he had a history of abusing animals.
Animal rights groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have been pointing out for years that many domestic abusers, serial killers and other violent criminals share such a history of abuse.
Stephanie Bell from PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department said, “This is yet another example of the link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. It may be impossible to pinpoint who the next mass murderer will be, but medical experts and top law enforcement officials know that there are major red flags to watch for, and cruelty to animals is one of them. Many serial rapists and murderers —including school shooters have a background of abusing animals.”
According to the AP, Cruz had a history of posting photos showing animal abuse—even a dismembered frog.
As a society we often pore over the ghoulish details of such prior abuse: Jeffrey Dahmer’s history of impaling animals’ heads on sticks, David Berkowitz—aka Son of Sam—shooting his neighbor’s dog, and Ted Bundy torturing animals. The Columbine killers also had a history of killing and mutilating animals.
It’s been nearly twenty years since the Columbine shootings left 13 people dead. Back then an expert told the New York Times:
“There is a common theme to all of the shootings of recent years,” Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at NYU told the Times in 1999. “You have a child who has symptoms of aggression toward his peers, an interest in fire, cruelty to animals, social isolation, and many warning signs that the school has ignored.” (italics added)
In this case, we can’t say the school ignored Cruz’s behavior—he was expelled from the very school that he allegedly attacked on Wednesday. But years of troubling abuse of animals hadn’t convinced authorities that more needed to be done to keep him from taking his violent tendencies out on people.
When we hear of people abusing animals we need to report them immediately.
Not only is it cruel in itself, but it also could be a sign that the abuser is prone to violence against humans.