A California man was convicted on Tuesday of cyberstalking and threatening to kidnap relatives of those killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, federal prosecutors said.
The man, Brandon Michael Fleury, was found guilty of three counts of cyberstalking and one count of transmitting a kidnapping threat, according to Ariana Fajardo Orshan, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Fleury, 22, will face a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 2, prosecutors said.
Over the course of three weeks, from late December 2018 into early January 2019, Fleury used 13 different Instagram accounts to target survivors and victims’ loved ones, prosecutors said. He operated under various aliases, including Nikolas Cruz, the man who has confessed to killing 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, and Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer, according to prosecutors.
From his home in Santa Ana, California, Fleury sent dozens of messages using Instagram handles that included “the.douglas.shooter,” “nikolas.killed.your.sister“ and “nikolas.the.murderer,” and images of Cruz as the accounts’ profile pictures, according to court documents.
“I’m your abductor I’m kidnapping you fool,” Fleury said in one message sent to multiple people, prosecutors said.
Other messages taunted the recipients about the deaths of loved ones and mentioned the assault weapon used in the attack.
“I killed your loved ones hahaha,” “Did you like my Valentines gift? I killed your friends” and “With the power of my AR-15, I take your loved ones away from you PERMANENTLY,” some of the messages read, according to prosecutors.
Several siblings, friends and parents of victims filed a harassment report with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in December 2018.
Law enforcement officers traced many of the Instagram accounts to Fleury’s home address, according to a criminal complaint.
In searching Fleury’s home, where he lives with his father and brother, investigators found thousands of images of Bundy, targeted victims and saved screenshots of his messages on Fleury’s tablet, court records show.
Fleury admitted to targeting family members who were “activists” and had a large social media presence, according to the complaint. He told law enforcement officers that he was trying to gain popularity, and that he had found a “fascination” with mass shooters and serial killers.
Daryl Wilcox, Fleury’s lawyer, argued during the six-day jury trial that Fleury’s autism affected his capacity to understand the emotional effect of his statements, The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
During the trial, his father took the stand and described his son as an isolated and deeply autistic young man who played with stuffed animals all day, according to The Sun Sentinel.