He's the face behind the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. His pictures on Instagram allowed him to make a connection with a girl in Washington, who detectives learned he talked to often in the months before the Feb. 14 massacre.
Although she never met him in person, 14-year-old Mia Hoff considered Nikolas Cruz as a friend. She met him through Instagram last October when she was 13 years old. Eventually, they started texting and talking on the phone.
“It’s disappointing and sad to know someone you knew did something so bad to people,” Hoff told NBC 6 through a video call.
She said Cruz was having a hard time and would talk to Hoff about school and about being bullied.
“He said that people used to beat him up," Hoff said. "...He said he wanted to overdose and cut himself, which was big because I was going through a lot and he was going through a lot and we talked about it.”
Detectives contacted Hoff after the shooting and interviewed her during the investigation.
“When I found all of this out, I was crying so much," she said. "I cared for him so much and didn’t think he would do that ... I didn’t think he would hurt someone ... I was really depressed.”
It wasn't until then her mother learned that her daughter knew Cruz.
"I didn't believe it until (the detective) told me Mia's number was one of the last numbers he had called besides family," Lisa Srsen told NBC 6.
Hoff recalls the last time she talked to Cruz was about a week before the massacre that killed 17 people.
"All I could remember is that he said he loved me and we never talked after that," she said.