Details Emerge in So. Florida High School Shooting That Left 17 Dead
It is the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
Seventeen people were killed and fourteen others were wounded when a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., opened fire on campus Wednesday.
Five of the injured are also suffering from life-threatening injuries, according to hospital officials.
“This is catastrophic,” Sheriff Israel, who has three children who graduated from the high school, said at a media briefing. “There really are no words.”
The suspect has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. He had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons but was enrolled at another Broward County school, reports the New York Times.
Cruz was apprehended at about 4 p.m. without incident in nearby Coral Springs after an intense, hour-long manhunt. He is now facing 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The alleged gunman was armed with a .223 caliber, AR-15 style rifle in the shooting, which he bought in the past year after passing a background check.
Cruz allegedly took an Uber to the school with the rifle in a soft case and began indiscriminately shooting at students in classrooms after entering the building. When gunshots erupted, the school transitioned into “code red”, indicating an active shooter situation.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of an active shooter at the school shortly before 3 pm.
Authorities say Cruz was able to flee the school by concealing himself in the crowd of students as they frantically evacuated. Investigators then identified Cruz using the school’s video surveillance system.
Police say 12 people were killed inside the building. All victims were taken to the Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North hospital.
Broward North received nine patients, including the gunman, who was treated and released into police custody. Two of the patients at Broward North died, three are in critical condition and four are in fair condition.
Broward Health Medical Center received seven victims. Five of the victims are reportedly in stable condition and two are in critical condition.
This is now the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
SWAT team members conducted a class-by-class search to make sure there were no other shooters and to retrieve bodies, says Broward County schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Immediately after the attack, deputies encouraged people to avoid the area as law enforcement and the district’s Special Investigative Unit was on site.
Gunman Described as ‘Troubled Kid’, Made Threatening Social Media Posts
Hours after the shooting, people who say they knew Cruz described him as a “troubled kid” who showed off his firearms and bragged about killing animals. His mother allegedly would resort to calling the police to have them come to their home to talk to him.
Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, says Cruz was a student in his class during the first semester of the 2016-17 school year. He described him as quiet and not disruptive, but says administrators alerted faculty that he was not allowed on campus with a backpack. Gard also says he learned from students after the shooting that Cruz was obsessed with a girl at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and was “stalking her,” reports the New York Times. Authorities have not confirmed that allegation.
One student says classmates would joke that if anyone were to commit a school shooting, it would be Cruz.
“I never really got close to him, because I always had a feeling there was something wrong,” says senior Sebastian Toala.
Student Victoria Olvera says Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that he was expelled over a fight with her new boyfriend.
An Instagram page purportedly belonging to Cruz shows many pictures of him holding firearms and ammunition for a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. Another photo shows a frog that had been killed.
One student says Cruz would brag about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.
Another student, junior Dakota Mutchler, says he used to be close to Cruz but he had not seen him in more than a year after he was expelled and that he “started progressively getting a little more weird.”
“He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there,” he added.
Six months ago, the FBI was alerted of a YouTube user named “Nikolas Cruz” who posted a comment stating, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” reports NBC News.
Cruz and his biological brother, Zachary, were adopted at birth by Lynda and Roger Cruz. Lynda died from pneumonia in early November and Roger died several years prior to that from a heart attack. The two were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, according to AP News.
“He lived here without any concerns or issues for almost three months and they are shocked and horrified by the allegations being made,” says the family’s lawyer, Jim Lewis. He says his clients are fully cooperating with the investigation.
Longtime neighbors Malcolm and Christine Roxburgh says police went to the boy’s house many times as he used to harass people. Malcolm says a neighbor across the street who kept pigs was targeted by Cruz.
“He didn’t like the pigs and didn’t like the neighbors, so he sent over his dog over there to try to attack them,” Malcolm says.
When Nikolas didn’t want to go to school, he would bang his head against a cement wall, recalls Christine.
“He could have killed any of us,” she says.