A spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) claimed to the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, February 15, that Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with the previous day’s deadly shooting spree at a Parkland, Florida, high school, was associated with his group.
UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, following news reports of the alleged association between Cruz and the Republic of Florida, a member of an alt right discussion forum wrote that all of the claims were false and were part of an elaborate attempt to troll a network news reporter and other media outlets. At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the Broward County sheriff said a connection was “not confirmed at this time,” but that law enforcement was still investigating.
Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, allegedly entered the school Wednesday, February 14 with an AR-15 and opened fire, killing at least 17 people and injuring 14 more. Cruz left the scene but was later captured by police and has been charged with premeditated murder.
After self-described ROF members claimed on the discussion forum 4chan that Cruz had also been a member, the Anti-Defamation League spoke with an ROF member who identified himself as Jordan Jereb.
Jereb, based in Tallahassee, is believed to be the leader of ROF. In 2016, he was arrested on charges of threatening a staffer in the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott because he was allegedly angry at the staffer’s son.
Jereb said that Cruz was associated with ROF, having been “brought up” by another member. Jereb also claimed that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida.
ROF has members in north and south Florida. The alt right white supremacist group borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (not itself a white supremacist movement). ROF describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida. Most ROF members are young and the group itself is only a few years old.
Jereb added that ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting.
If Cruz’s role is confirmed, the Parkland school shooting would be the second school shooting by a white supremacist in the past two months. In December 2017, another young white supremacist, William Atchison, engaged in a shooting spree at a high school in northwest New Mexico, killing two students before shooting himself.
What we know about ROF (the Republic of Florida):
- The Republic of Florida (ROF), also known as the ROF Militia, is a white supremacist group that started in 2014, adopting many concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (which itself is not part of the white supremacist movement), including paramilitary structures, paramilitary trainings, and uniforms. Members even have a camouflage painted vehicle.
- The leader of the group is Jordan Jereb, based in Tallahassee; the group also has members in South Florida, where Chris Cedeno seems to be one of the leading figure.
- Group members have had contacts and associations with a variety of other white supremacist groups, including the Vinlanders Social Club, the League of the South, and Atomwaffen
- As the alt right grew more well known, the ROF adopted a number of alt right concepts and language and now can be considered an alt right-style white supremacist group. It openly identifies as “identitarian.”
- It seeks to create a “white ethnostate” out of Florida.
- The group does not have a significant track record of violence, though that may be due more to its newness than anything else. Members have used violent language (and Jereb) was arrested in 2016 for threatening a staffer in the governor’s office. In 2014, before he founded ROF, Jereb said on social media that “the traitors of my country (Florida) will be hung in our courts.”
- At least some members of the Republic of Florida appear to have attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.