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Family who took in Florida shooter didn't see warning signs

"He was part of our family."
Nikolas Cruz foster family
Photo: Getty Images

Gunman Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 and injured over a dozen more in the deadliest mass shooting since Sandy Hook, moved in with the Sneads just three months before the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

According to a newly-surfaced NBC interview with Kimberly and James Snead, the couple saw Cruz, 19, not as the "monster he turned out to be," but as a young man their son had befriended and someone they’d welcomed into their home.

James told NBC that Cruz, seemingly depressed after losing his mom to pneumonia, had referred to his time with them as the "happiest" in his life.

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"When we went out to dinner, he went out to dinner with us," James said. "When we went to a friend's house, he went with us. He was part of our family."

The Sneads claim that they saw no signs of the animal cruelty that Cruz’s neighbors and peers noted in the past, nor did they hear about rumors that he’d stalked a girl from Stoneman Douglas, his former school.

The Sneads had rules Cruz had to follow

Kimberly told NBC that Cruz behaved like he was "afraid to be in trouble."

"I told him there’d be rules and he followed every rule to the T," James said to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Saturday. (You can read the full exclusive here.)

One of these rules was about gun safety. The Sneads, who reportedly grew up with guns, said Cruz had to keep his in a safe. James said he believed he had the "sole key" to that safe — he wasn't aware that Cruz had a spare.

Cruz also had to ask permission before he took out the guns, and Kimberly told the Sun-Sentinel that he’d only asked twice since November when he'd moved in — and only once did they say "yes."

"We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know," Kimberly told the publication. "We didn’t see this side of him."

Cruz said he didn’t want to go to school on Valentine’s Day

On the morning of the mass Florida shooting, Valentine’s Day 2018, Cruz told the Sneads that he didn’t want to go to the school he’d been attending. According to the Sun-Sentinel, he most recently attended Rock Island OCLC in Oakland Park, which Metro could not immediately confirm.

Cruz reportedly said, "It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day."

Kimberly recalled that she last saw Cruz when she was running out for errands, and he’d said he was going fishing. Instead, he went to Stoneman Douglas High School with his AR-15 rifle.

Cruz sent the Sneads’ son — who went to Stoneman Douglas — texts that day asking what classroom he was in, then later wrote that he was going to the movies but had "something important" he wanted to tell the teen.

When pressed about it, he later wrote that it was "nothing."

The Sneads see Cruz in custody

When the Sneads saw Cruz at Broward Sheriff's Office to pick up their son, who, unharmed, was also being questioned by the police, they didn't know how to react.

"We didn't speak with him, I more of yelled at him," Kimberly told NBC. "I was actually going to strangle him. I wanted to go after him. I tried, I guess."

The Sun-Sentinel reported that James held her back.

The only thing she could manage at the time, Kimberly recalled, was yelling, "Really, Nik? Really?"

"He said he was sorry. He apologized. He looked lost, absolutely lost," James said of Cruz when he was brought into custody. "And that was the last time we saw him."

WATCH: The Sneads on Good Morning America Feb. 19