‘No idea we had a monster under our roof’ say couple who took in Florida gunman

In this Feb. 17, 2018 photo, Kimberly and James Snead recount the day of the shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting. The Snead's, who had taken suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz in their home after his mother died, told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper they had no idea the extent of Cruz's issues. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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‘No idea we had a monster under our roof’ say couple who took in Florida gunman

WASHINGTON: The couple who took in Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz after his mother's death have described him as quirky but pleasant and seemingly on the right track, saying they had no idea they had a "monster living under our roof."
Cruz, 19, moved in with James and Kimberly Snead of Parkland, Florida in late November after his adoptive mother died earlier that month from complications of pneumonia, they told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in an interview published Sunday.
He was a friend of their son.
Prone to odd eating and sleeping habits and unused to any form of housework, he was nevertheless making progress in dealing with his grief and kept himself busy with adult education classes along with his job at a discount store, the couple said.
"I told him there'd be rules and he followed every rule to the T," James Snead, 48, an army veteran and military intelligence analyst, told the paper.
"We had this monster living under our roof and we didn't know," added Kimberly Snead, 49, a neonatal nurse. "We didn't see this side of him."
Cruz killed 17 people at his former high school last Wednesday using an AR-15 rifle that he had legally purchased. It was the country's worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago that left 26 dead.
He also owned several other guns including two other assault rifles as well as knives, according to the Sneads who own firearms themselves and did not find this unusual.
And his ultimate aim was to join the army and become an infantryman, something he had become excited about after a recent meeting with a military recruiter.
A profile has emerged of a troubled young man who was expelled from school last year for "disciplinary reasons."
The FBI admitted receiving a detailed warning last month about Cruz's gun ownership, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential for him carrying out a school shooting.
The agency took no action, despite the tip-off.
Cruz was also known to police after his mother repeatedly reported him for violent outbursts, while records obtained by the same newspaper showed authorities investigated Cruz in 2016 after he cut his arms on messaging app Snapchat and threatened to buy a gun.
But he was eventually deemed a low risk and later passed a background check, allowing him in February 2017 to buy the AR-15 rifle used in the massacre.
The Sneads said it appeared he had grown up without ever having to do common chores -- he couldn't cook, do laundry, pick up after himself or even use a microwave.
"He was very naive. He wasn't dumb, just naive," James Snead told the Sun Sentinel.
Cruz had quirky habits, like putting a chocolate chip cookie on a steak and cheese sandwich, and going to bed at 8:00 pm.
He seemed lonely and badly wanted a girlfriend, and was also depressed about the death of his mother, the couple said.
Kimberly Snead had taken Cruz to the office of a therapist just five days before the shooting, and he had said he was open to therapy if his medical insurance would cover it.
Cruz told the Sneads he would inherit at least $800,000 from his parents, with most of the funds becoming available when he turned 22 -- and the claim appeared to be borne out by paperwork the couple have subsequently seen, they said.
On the day of the attack, Cruz sent several text messages to the Sneads' son, who was still studying at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In one, he asked what classroom the boy was in, adding in another that he had "something important" to tell him. But he then wrote: "Nothing man."
The couple last saw Cruz at the Broward County Sheriff's office. Dressed in a hospital gown, he was handcuffed and surrounded by deputies.
"He said he was sorry. He apologized. He looked lost, absolutely lost," said James Snead. "And that was the last time we saw him."


Taliban push for withdrawal of foreign troops in two-day talks

Updated 36 min 56 sec ago
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Taliban push for withdrawal of foreign troops in two-day talks

  • Reject reports that discussions were centered around a cease-fire and Afghan polls
  • Meeting involved representatives from the US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE

ISLAMABAD, KABUL: Putting an end to speculations surrounding the content of discussions that took place between representatives of the US and the Afghan Taliban during the two-day talks in the UAE, the militant group said on Wednesday that the “focal point of the discussion” was the “withdrawal of foreign troops".

The statement further rejected reports that a ceasefire, formation of an interim government, and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan were discussed between the two parties.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US' special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, led the delegation for the talks which began on Monday in the presence of officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

After the meetings, he had tweeted that the two-day talks, to promote intra-Afghan dialogue in order to end the conflict in Afghanistan, had been productive.

Khalilzad flew into Pakistan where he met the army's top commander, General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi, with the military spokesman's saying that matters of regional security and the Afghan peace process were discussed.

“Visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan's efforts for the Afghan peace process. The COAS (Chief of the Army Staff) reiterated that peace in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan and assured cont efforts for bringing peace and stability in the region,” the spokesman tweeted.

He added that both sides discussed measures to create underlying conditions for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan after 40 years of conflict.

Earlier in the day, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said no talks had taken place with the Kabul administration and that other issues would not be discussed because the “root cause of all problems and the biggest obstacle to peace is the occupation of Afghanistan and bringing it to an end".

He added that any future negotiations would take placd after deliberations and consultations with the respective leadership from both sides.

Mujahid said that the Taliban representatives presented “documented information and proof to the participants about indiscriminate bombings against civilians and demanded its immediate halt. Talks were also held about humane treatment of prisoners and their freedom, a matter that shall be taken into consideration".

Another Taliban official, privy to the discussions that took place in the UAE, said that the US had called for the release of two professors from the American University of Kabul, who were kidnapped in 2016 and were in the Taliban's custody.

He added that US officials reiterated their longstanding concerns about the imminent threats to Washington from Afghanistan and that the Taliban assured them that their “activities are only limited to Afghanistan".

The official, who did not want to be identified, told Arab News that the Taliban's chief, Maulvi Habitullah, had authorized senior officials -- including former ministers Amir Khan Mutaqi, Mullah Abbas, and other senior leaders Siddiqullah, Hafiz Yahya Haqqani, Saadullah Hamas and Dr Faqeer -- to participate in the talks.

“As far as the results of these negotiations are concerned and how effective they shall prove in finding a peaceful solution to the continuing problems will be answered in the upcoming weeks and months,” the Taliban posted on their official website on Tuesday.

In Kabul, Omer Daudzai, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s newly-appointed envoy told a gathering on Wednesday that "work on the peace deal will begin in the near future". He gave no further details.

Due to the sensitive nature of the talks, no formal details of the meeting have been made available to the public yet. However, Reuters quoted a Taliban source on Tuesday when it reported that the Taliban had discussed conditions for a truce, swapping of prisoners, and the formation of an interim government with the US officials.

The reports, however, were rejected by Mujahid. “Reuters News Agency has been publishing false reports since yesterday about the meeting taking place between representatives of the Islamic Emirate and the United States in the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

“Talks in Abu Dhabi are taking place with the United States about ending the occupation and American intervention. Nothing about an interim government, ceasefire, elections nor any other internal issue is being discussed, rather the main topic is the American occupation,” he added.

The US embassy in Kabul said Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to update President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah on his engagements with regional partners and other interested parties to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul after three-days of meetings in Abu Dhabi, including the fourth round of quadrilateral meetings between the United States, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, a statement said. 

The meetings were a part of efforts by the United States and international partners to promote an intra-Afghan dialogue aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.