Homeland Security Expert On Florida Suspect's White Nationalist Ties

nikolas cruz parkland florida school shooting arraignment

Nikolas Cruz, 19, who authorities say gunned down 17 at a Florida high school Wednesday. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- After the suspect in Wednesday's school shooting in Parkland, Florida was revealed to have ties to a white nationalist group, WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Laurie Kirby talked to Middlesex Community College's Homeland Security Director, Terry Downes, about the charges against the gunman--as well as what comes next.

Terry Downes on Calling Mass School Shootings 'Terrorism'

"It depends on the definition that you're dealing with, and I know that that gets legalistic and people get a little frustrated with that. Every terrible crime is not necessarily a terrorist crime ... what you have to do is look and see how Congress has defined what terrorism is, and then see if that definition applies to this particular situation."

On suspected gunman's ties to white nationalist militia

"If that is the case--and I'm not particularly familiar with the Republic of Florida movement [the group Cruz belonged to]--but assuming that that is a movement, then what would likely happen is that the police who responded always work these days with joint terrorism task forces. The regional joint terrorism task force for south Florida will take a look at this situation, see if it matches up with existing definitions of activity that may be fairly described as domestic terrorism based on the kind of activity that took place and the affiliation that this fellow has with that organization."

"If they feel there is good evidence that he was inspired by US-based extremist ideologies and movements, then it could be referred to whichever federal agency is most appropriate. That might be the FBI, it might be, certainly here where there were firearms involved, good chance it would be the ATF--and then the question would be, at what level should he be indicted?"

On whether or not Americans are threatened more from within than without

"Most of the terrorist activity that takes place in this country is based on so-called domestic terrorism. Certainly the Oklahoma City bombing is the best example of that. The people involved in that were purely domestic terrorists. The threat from religious and commonly Islamic extremist terrorists is very well known, there's a war going on to combat it. So most people think of terrorism in terms of coming from that side of the aisle--but in actual numbers, most of the terrorism that we see in the United States is based on domestic terrorist considerations."


Kirby and Downes also discussed the court process to come, the charges that Cruz is facing, and what charges may be added.

Listen to Downes and Kirby's full interview:

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