If you go to the Southern Poverty Law Center looking for information on Jordan Jereb, you’ll find an article from 2014 that basically mocks him for missing the interview he requested because he had been arrested.
Jordan Jereb, head of The Republic of Florida militia group, wanted to be famous. But when
opportunity finally knocked, the man who liked to roll down hills as he played Army was nowhere to be found. It turned out his outlaw fantasies had finally caught up with him.
I wanted to know more about Jereb because he’s in the news today claiming that yesterday’s school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was “a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.”
What I learned from the SPLC wasn’t comforting. They sent representatives to Tallahassee four years ago to interview Jereb because he had reached out to them repeatedly looking for recognition. When he didn’t show for the interview, they investigated and tracked him down at the Leon County jail where he and a friend were in custody for “trespassing after allegedly entering their old high school.”
The SPLC says local law enforcement “had grown increasingly worried of the threatening rhetoric coming from Jereb and his friends.” They also say that his group was “a would-be militia made up of kids barely old enough to buy guns.”
Reading the piece made me somewhat skeptical about whether Jereb should be believed when he says that Cruz was a member of his group. After all, it’s clear that he wants publicity, so maybe this is just a way to get his name in the news.
On the other hand, some pieces line up. For one, I’ve seen comments from students at the school who said that Cruz was obsessed with a girl there and had stalked her. Jereb is quoted as saying Cruz “had ‘trouble with a girl’ and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine’s Day, wasn’t a coincidence.”
That, combined with the fact that in 2014 the SPLC saw his Republic of Florida militia as populated with kids barely old enough to buy a gun makes me think that Jereb could be telling the truth.
The fact that the SPLC investigators chose to portray the group as more ridiculous than menacing looks like a potential error on their part:
Jereb had been posting an onslaught of videos for months. Filming with a handful of high school friends, Jereb and company had warned of a tyrannical global power running the world, instructed viewers on knife fighting and emergency “bug out” bags — and more than a few videos showed Jereb rolling down hills in what was supposed to be a demonstration of paramilitary tactics and training.
It all looked pretty silly, like the kids who hang out at the Army surplus store after school and play army while their friends are out chasing girls.
In explaining why they made the trip to Tallahassee at all, they said they wanted to learn what Jereb “hoped to achieve by embracing just about every right-wing ideology there is—from neo-Confederate calls for secession, to survivalism and prepping, even the occasional Nazi salute in front of a webcam.”
They didn’t get their answers back in 2014. But Jereb told the Associated Press last night that “his group wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state” and that “his group holds ‘spontaneous random demonstrations’ and tries not to participate in the modern world.”
Tallahassee is a long way from Stoneman Douglas High School, so Cruz must have learned about the Republic of Florida militia through the internet or some white supremacists he met up with in southern Florida. However it happened, I doubt the relationship was a positive one. For a kid whose adoptive parents were both deceased and who had obvious social and behavioral problems, he might have finally found some acceptance in this group of hate-mongers. They let him participate in some paramilitary drills, filled his head with poison, and sent him on his way.
But don’t expect them to take any responsibility for what happened:
Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press that did not know Cruz personally and that “he acted on his own behalf” and is “solely responsible for what he just did.”
I’d like to know how that defense would work for a leader of ISIS after someone they trained committed an act of mass murder.