PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — The leader of a white nationalist militia told the Associated Press Thursday that Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee, but he later seemed to walk back that claim.
Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group, the Republic of Florida, wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. He said his group holds "spontaneous random demonstrations" and tries not to participate in the modern world.
Jereb said he didn't know Cruz personally and that "he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he's solely responsible for what he just did." He also said he had "trouble with a girl" and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine's Day, wasn't a coincidence.
Jereb made similar claims to the Daily Beast and the Anti-Defamation League. ABC News also reported that classmates said they had seen Cruz with Jereb, whose most recent address is more than 400 miles from Parkland in Tallahassee.
Speaking to the Miami Herald, Jereb backed off his claim somewhat, stressing that he never actually met Cruz.
Later in the day, somebody using Jereb's name posted on a social media site, saying, "There was a misunderstanding because we have MULTIPLE people named Nicholas in ROF" and blaming "the jew media" for false reporting.
The Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee has been unable to confirm a link between Cruz and the militia.
Nineteen-year-old Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the shooting.
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect inconsistencies in Jereb's story and a social media post apparently backing off the claim.