By Kevin Deutsch
A Margate man is facing multiple charges for leaving dead animals in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Memorial Garden, and detectives learned he has a “disturbing fascination with mass school shootings,” authorities said Friday.
Robert Mondragon, 29, of 3420 Banks Rd., is being held without bond at the North Broward Bureau Jail on three counts of removing or disfiguring a tomb or monument, five counts of violating probation for battery and indecent exposure, and violating a risk protection order.
On Jul. 20, a school crossing guard discovered a dead duck with its chest cavity cut open on a bench at the memorial garden, which was created outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—off school property—to commemorate victims of the 2018 mass shooting, according to detectives with the Broward Sheriff’s Office Threat Management Unit.
On Jul. 21, the same school crossing guard found a dead raccoon on the same memorial bench. On Jul. 31, a BSO deputy found a dead opossum on the bench, detectives said.
Mondragon, who has been on the radar of local enforcement since 2013, showed a “desire to create an active shooter event in our school system,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said during a press conference Friday.
“He fits every classification that it’s coming,” Tony said. “We’ve been lucky, and luck is not a strategy.”
Detectives spent weeks developing leads before Mondragon’s arrest.
When investigators reviewed surveillance video after the animal incidents, they spotted a white Nissan with all black rims or tires and no hubcaps that arrived at the memorial shortly after 11 p.m. on Jul. 30.
Detectives said the male driver, later identified as Mondragon, got out of the Nissan and walked to the car’s passenger’s side. Authorities said that he entered the memorial and stayed for several minutes before getting back in the car and leaving.
Late on the night of Jul. 31, a BSO Parkland district deputy spotted a white Nissan Sentra with illegal window tints that matched the vehicle description from the earlier surveillance video, detectives said.
The Nissan was driving slowly around Pine Island Road and Holmberg Road, and the deputy conducted a traffic stop.
Mondragon was the only person in the car, and there were bird feathers and blood on the front passenger side floorboard, detectives said.
Mondragon told the deputy he had the dead bird in his car because he likes “the metal and blood smell that emit[s] from the dead animal,” according to a written announcement issued by BSO.
Later, detectives with BSO’s Violence Intervention Proactive Enforcement Response team received information about Mondragon’s whereabouts from BSO’s Burglary Apprehension Team.
They arrested him the night of Aug. 4 for violating his probation for battery and indecent exposure and for violating his risk protection order.
Detectives continued their investigation into the dead animals intentionally placed on the memorial.
They searched Mondragon’s car, home, cellphone, and social media accounts, discovering a photo of him holding a dead duck with its chest cavity cut open on his phone, according to BSO.
Another photo on Mondragon’s phone showed a dead raccoon on the floorboard of the passenger’s side of his Nissan, detectives said.
Detectives said, “further investigation revealed Mondragon’s obsession with school shooters, both real and fictional.”
“Mondragon’s facial tattoos resemble those of Tate Langdon, the character from the television series American Horror Story based on the Columbine High School massacre,” according to the BSO announcement.
Detectives also found text messages about school shootings on Mondragon’s phone and internet searches “about school shooters, how to break into steel doors, shootings involving multiple victims, [how to make] pipe bombs, and slang terms for killing cop,” according to BSO.
Detectives learned that, two weeks before the end of the 2021-022 school year, Mondragon “walked the path the MSD school shooter took from the high school to Walmart on Feb. 14, 2018.”
School shooter Nikolas Cruz, who has pleaded guilty to killing 17 victims and wounding 17 others at MSD, stopped at Walmart to purchase a drink immediately after the shooting, authorities said.
BSO said its investigators got help from Coral Springs Police officers “based on their previous encounters with Mondragon.”
Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are pursuing possible federal charges against Mondragon, according to BSO.
Mondragon faces additional criminal charges for allegedly exposing himself and masturbating in front of a woman outside a Margate gym—then biting a police officer’s finger, court records show.
Margate Police arrested him on Mar. 14 after he failed to follow the conditions of his pretrial release in the case, according to an arrest affidavit.
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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