On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, has been identified as the suspect in the shooting and is currently awaiting trial for murder.
Over in California, 22-year-old Brandon Fleury of Santa Ana used the shooting as a basis for harassing the victims and their families.
Between December 2018 and January 2019, he created 13 Instagram accounts, according to NBC News, including at least one that was spoofed to look like it belonged to suspected shooter Cruz. Another used the name “nikolas.cruz.killed.your.sister.” Some referenced serial killer Ted Bundy.
He used those accounts to send harassing messages to families of the victims.
“I killed your loved ones hahaha,” one message read.
“With the power of my AR-15, you all die,” detailed another, referencing the gun used in the mass shooting.
Authorities searched his electronic devices and found thousands of pictures of serial killer Ted Bundy, as well as images of the victims and their families, as well as screenshots of messages he’d sent.
Fleury told investigators that he “trolled” the victims simply because he enjoyed taunting them and because he wanted “popularity” and “notoriety” online. He also admitted that he targeted families that he considered “activists.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ajay Alexander said in court papers that the victims lived “in constant fear” of another harassing message from Fleury. Alexander also noted that Fleury’s obsession with serial killers should be a warning that he might some day act on that obsession.
“The danger that Fleury poses is clear and if given the opportunity, there is a real danger that he will attempt to follow in the footsteps of the very mass murderers and serial killers that he idolizes,” Alexander said.
Fleury’s attorney, Sabrina Puglisi, noted that it was revealed during the trial that he is on the autism spectrum. She hoped that the judge would consider his mental state in handing out her client’s sentence. However, several mental health experts testified during the trial that Fleury, though on the autism spectrum, understood right from wrong.
He was convicted in October of three counts of cyberstalking and one count of transmitting a kidnapping threat. He was facing up to 20 years behind bars, though U.S. District Judge Rodolfo Ruiz sentenced him to 66 months in prison. Six of those months will run concurrently, or at the same time, as the 60-month sentence.