Zachary Cruz says failure to stop Parkland shooting ‘haunts me’

The brother of the gunman who killed 17 students and adults at a Parkland, Florida, school announced the launch of an anti-bullying campaign on Thursday that he says could prevent the next mass tragedy.

“Every day and every night I think to myself how this could have been prevented and it haunts me,” Zachary Cruz,18, said on Thursday. “Yet life is not about the past. Life is about where you are and where you’re going. Me, I’ve decided that it isn’t too late to prevent the next Parkland, the next Santa Fe, or the next Columbine.”

The organization, called We Isolate No-one: The Zachary Cruz Foundation to End Bullying, is backed by Nexus Services, a legal rights group that has been assisting Cruz.

The announcement comes four months after Cruz’s brother Nikolas used an AR-15-style rifle to carry out one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Nikolas Cruz is awaiting trial on murder charges, and Zachary Cruz did not say much about him on Thursday.

“I cannot stand here today and defend my brother or make excuses for him,” Cruz said at a news conference in Washington. “His story is complicated, tragic and can be told elsewhere.”

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School led to a renewed critical focus on US gun laws. Parkland survivors and gun control advocates pushed to limit access to firearms in the wake of the shooting, while pro-gun advocates, including President Donald Trump, said teachers should be allowed to carry their own firearms to stop a shooter.

However, Zachary Cruz said the issue was not about guns at all, but about bullying.

“We can’t solve this with new rules or laws alone. We can’t solve this problem with more teachers or more staff. We can’t solve this problem by making it harder to buy guns. We can’t solve this problem by giving guns to teachers,” Cruz said. “The only way to solve this problem is for kids to stand up and end bullying in our schools.”

Cruz has previously said he believes bullying contributed to the Parkland shooting.

“Because my brother didn’t really fit in with a lot of people and I saw the effects of that, like, firsthand,” Zachary Cruz told CNN affiliate WPEC last month. “It’s a real issue, so I just want to try to change that.”

In statements to investigators after the shooting, Zachary Cruz said he bullied his brother when they were younger, according to a sheriff’s report.

Cruz has had his own legal issues connected to the aftermath of the shooting. He was arrested in March on a misdemeanor trespassing charge for skateboarding at Stoneman Douglas High School. For that minor offense, Cruz’s bail was set at $500,000 and he was sentenced to six months probation.

He later filed a lawsuit against Broward County officials, accusing them of violating his Eighth Amendment rights and claiming he was tortured while in jail. Cruz moved from south Florida to Virginia last month in hopes of a fresh start, he said last month. Nexus Services is assisting Cruz in his lawsuit and relocation in Virginia.