Florida shooting: Troubled former student suspected in killing of 17 at Parkland school

Nick Allen

A former student at a Florida high school returned to his campus with deadly intent on Wednesday, reportedly donning a gas mask and killing at least 17 people with an AR-15 assault rifle.

Pupils at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, hid under desks and cowered in cupboards as the gunfire rang out.

The alleged gunman, named as Nikolas Cruz, 19,  had previously attended the high school and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Disturbing social media photos show alleged Florida gunman Nikolas Cruz ahead of the school massacreCredit: Instagram/Splash News

He managed to make it off campus before he was cornered and taken into custody in a townhouse at the Pelican Pointe gated community, in the Wyndham Lakes estate.

As has happened after every mass shooting, the atrocity spurred calls for gun control, with lawmakers calling on Donald Trump to "do something" about gun violence.

The president didn't face the media after the attack, but tweeted his condolences on Twitter. 

The death toll would make it the third-worst school shooting in recent US history after the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook attacks. It is the 18th school shooting this year, according to campaign group Every Town for Gun Safety.  

Bill Bratton, the former chief of New York City police department, said the frequency of school shootings was “astonishing” – but that it had become “the new normal”.

Authorities at two nearby hospitals said they were treating 13 survivors for bullet wounds and other injuries, five of whom were listed in critical condition.

Jim Gard, a maths teacher at the school, said that the teachers had reportedly been warned about Cruz. Another student interviewed on the scene by Channel 7 said the student had guns at home.

Florida shooting

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” said Mr Gard, who added that the former student had been in his class last year. “There were problems with him last year threatening students.”

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn't been back to the clinic for more than a year.

One pupil said other teenagers had long thought the suspect would “shoot up the school”.

The pupil told local television station WFOR-TV: “A lot of people were saying it was going to be him. A lot of kids threw jokes around saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school. It turns out that everyone predicted it. That’s crazy.”

Suspect Nikolas Cruz being apprehended by police in an image posted on Twitter by ESPN's Josh CohenCredit: Josh Cohen

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said investigators were dissecting the suspect's social media posts. "And some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing," he added without elaborating.

The Valentine's Day bloodshed began after the assailant, wearing a gas mask, stalked into the school carrying a rifle, ammunition cartridges and smoke grenades, said Senator Bill Nelson, who had been briefed by federal law enforcement officials.

He then pulled a fire alarm, prompting students and staff to pour from their classrooms into hallways. "There the carnage began," Senator Bill Nelson told CNN.

In brief | Worst US mass shootings

On the first floor, Geovanni Vilsant, 15, said he was in a Spanish classroom when a fire alarm went off, urging all the students out of their classrooms.

Then, two minutes later, gun shots rang out and he fled, catching sight of three bloody bodies on the floor as he was fleeing the school. “There was blood everywhere,” he said. “They weren’t moving.” His elder brother, Bradley, who jumped a fence and sought refuge in a nearby neighbourhood, went back and found him.

 

6:42AM

'Face of a hero'

A football coach at the Florida high school where a gunman killed at least 17 people is being hailed a hero after reportedly throwing himself in front of students to protect them. 

Aaron Feis was taken to hospital in critical condition after the alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County on Wednesday afternoon.

The coach, who also worked as a security guard at the school for at least eight years, was initially said to be fighting for his life. However, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel later announced that “a beloved football coach is dead,” without naming the coach.  

"This is one of the genuinely greatest people to walk this earth. jumped in front of the bullets to save some students lives... unbelievable," Mike Schmidt wrote on Twitter. 

Read the full story here. 

3:31AM

Cruz had received treatment at a mental health clinic

 Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.

School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn't been back to the clinic for more than a year.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr tells @andersoncooper the Florida high school shooting suspect was a client at a local mental health clinic and “had been dealing with mental health issues,” but had not been back for treatment in over a year https://t.co/GP2jQJmeExpic.twitter.com/zZwiCBDckW


— Joshua Chavers (@JoshuaChavers) February 15, 2018

"It wasn't like there wasn't concern for him," Furr said.

"We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren't connected ... Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. ... In this case, we didn't find a way to connect with this kid," Furr said.

2:36AM

Rubio hits back at calls for greater gun control

Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio has responded to calls for greater gun control by saying a law might not have prevented the shooting.

He said "people still don't know how" the shooting occurred, or how the suspect Nikolas Cruz obtained the weapon. 

"I think it's important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there was some law that we could have passed that would have prevented it," Mr Rubio said on Fox News.

He also said it was too early for his Senate colleagues to call for new laws.

"I think you can always have that debate. But if you're gonna have that debate about this particular incident you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it."

2:05AM

Gunman 'wore a gas mask and had smoke grenades'

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida says the shooter in the attack on a high school in his state wore a gas mask and had smoke grenades.

The Florida Democrat said in an interview with CNN that he was briefed on the attack by the FBI.

Nelson says the attacker "set off the fire alarm so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall. And there the carnage began."

Nelson says he did not know if the gunman had used the smoke grenades but he assumed that's why he had a gas mask on.

1:39AM

Communication with first responders released

Officials release scanner communication between first responders at scene of #StonemanShootingpic.twitter.com/YFXgbTNpAC


— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) February 15, 2018

Additional scanner communication between first responders gives details into scene at #StonemanShootingpic.twitter.com/e33OM9YmcW


— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) February 15, 2018

1:17AM

Florida shooting was 18th school shooting this year

Timeline | US school shootings in 2018

1:01AM

'He was crazy about guns'

Chad Williams, 18, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High school, remembered Cruz as a troubled classmate from when they attended middle school together. He said Cruz would set off the fire alarm, day after day, and finally got expelled in the eighth grade.

More recently, Williams saw Cruz carrying several publications about guns when they ran into each other at the high school, he told Reuters. Williams thought Cruz was there to pick up a younger sibling.

“He was crazy about guns,. He was kind of an outcast. He didn’t have many friends. He would do anything crazy for a laugh, but he was trouble.”

12:32AM

Footage shows scenes in classroom

CBS News posted a brief clip of cell phone video footage the network said was taken from inside a classroom, showing what appeared to be several students.

A rapid series of loud gunshots are heard amid hysterical screaming and someone yelling, “Oh my God.”

JUST IN (warning, disturbing video): Cell phone video inside the school as shots were going off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High https://t.co/wHWo6XjccXpic.twitter.com/3ovf5LhzBs


— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) February 14, 2018

McKenzie Hartley, 19, who identified herself as the sister of a student at the school described the scene in a text message to Reuters: "She heard him shooting through the windows of classrooms and two students were shot."

12:19AM

Lawmaker urges Trump to 'do something'

Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida says lawmakers have offered their condolences after the latest school shooting, this one in his district.

Deutch says he found his colleagues' outreach - in his words - both "heartwarming and obscene." 

The congressman says he uses the word "obscene" because school shootings have become so commonplace that lawmakers were offering him guidance on what to expect in coming days as constituents grapple with the tragedy.

Deutch says it's time to find ways to save lives. He says he wants President Donald Trump to call those concerned to the White House to "do something" about gun violence.

12:14AM

Gunman had been 'flagged as a threat'

The gunman who allegedly killed at least 17 people at a Florida high school on Wednesday was reportedly a former student who had been flagged as a possible threat.

Police identified the suspect as Nikolaus Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami.

Jim Gard, a maths teacher, said Cruz had been in his class last year.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Mr Gard told the Miami Herald.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

Read the full story. 

11:58PM

12 of 17 fatal victims died inside school

Scott Israel, the local sheriff, says 12 of the 17 fatal victims were found inside the school.

Two others were found nearby the school, one in a nearby street, and two others died in hospital.

11:25PM

Suspect identified as Nicolas Cruz

A federal official identified the suspect to the Associated Press as Nicolas Cruz.

11:17PM

Map of where the shooting happened

Florida shooting

 

11:14PM

16 dead, CNN reports

CNN reported that 16 people had died, citing local law enforcement sources.

ABC News reported that at least 15 people had died, according to two officers on the scene.

10:55PM

Other pupils had predicted suspect would 'shoot up school'

One pupil at the school said other teenagers had long thought the suspect would "shoot up the school".

The pupil told WFOR-TV: "A lot of people were saying it was going to be him. A lot of kids threw jokes around saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school.

"It turns out that everyone predicted it. That's crazy.

"He was going class to class just shooting at random kids. Everything he posts (on social media) is about weapons. It's sick."

10:41PM

School had previously sent email warning about shooter, teacher says

A teacher at the school told the Miami Herald the shooter had previously been identified as a threat.

The teacher said the school had sent out an email warning staff about him and saying that he should not be allowed into the school with a backpack.

Jim Gard, a maths teacher, told the Miami Herald: "We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him.

"There were problems with him last year threatening students, and and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

10:36PM

'Up to seven people dead' local TV station reports

CBS Miami reported that "as many as seven people are dead," citing local sources.

10:10PM

First pictures of presumed suspect being arrested

A man, believed to be the suspect, is handcuffed

 

10:01PM

Gunman a previous student

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County has just given a press conference.

He says:

He was not a current student.

He was previously a student, but I don't know the circumstances.

I wasn't there, but I was told there was no confrontation and he was taken into arrest without incident.

I believe he was approximately 18 years old.

We believe the school is cleared, but we are still checking. When I hear all clear we begin the next phase of the investigations.

We know 14 people were transported to area hospitals with varying wounds.

9:58PM

Gunman reportedly a former student

Brandon, a student, said the suspected gunman was a former student.

"He told me he got kicked out of two private schools, and was held back twice.

"He seemed a little off."

9:56PM

Parents await news

Family members embrace after a student walked out from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

 

9:38PM

Students text their terrified parents

My colleague Nick Allen writes:

Caesar Figuero was texting with his daughter who was still in the school.

He said: "She's trapped with 10 friends. Everyone was screaming and running. She ran into a closet and she's still there.

"She's saying people are shot or dead. Supposedly there was a student wearing a red shirt and one of the kids heard eight shots.

"Another student I spoke to said there was bodies all over the place and blood all over the place. There's probably two or three hundred cops, parents crying."

9:35PM

Former NYPD chief: "This is the new normal"

Bill Bratton, former NYPD chief, says the number of school shootings this year is "astonishing" - but calls it "the new normal". 

He tells MSNBC: "The reality is, this is something that will just continue to occur."

Bill Bratton

 

9:23PM

Gunman "wearing a gas mask"

My colleague Rozina Sabur writes:

The gunman was wearing a gas mask, according to Mail Online.

Police surrounded Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the 'heavily armed' shooter, wearing a gas mask, pulled out a 'long' gun at just after 2pm and began shooting.

9:21PM

Photos taken by students

Photos taken by a student during the "active shooter" situation
Images inside the classroom

 

9:04PM

President Trump responds

 

9:03PM

White House responds

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: "The President has spoken with Governor Scott of Florida and offered federal assistance if needed. 

"Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen also spoke with Governor Scott as well as state and local officials. She has briefed the President on those conversations. The Governor, the Secretary, and other Administration officials will continue to keep the President updated.

"In light of this tragedy there will not be a regularly scheduled briefing as previously announced. We will inform you as more information is available.

"We continue to keep the victims, and their friends and family, in our thoughts and prayers."

9:02PM

18th school shooting this year

US Editor Ben Riley-Smith writes:

There have already been more than a dozen school shootings in 2018 in America, according to data collected by the non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety. 

Two teenagers were killed and 17 injured in a shooting at Marshall County High School, Kentucky, last month after a lone attacker fired a handgun apparently at random. 

Earlier this month a 12-year-old girl was alleged by police to have opened fire at students at an Los Angeles school, leaving a handful of students injured. 

9:01PM

Latest images from the scene

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

 

8:57PM

Florida Senator confirms several dead

Bill Nelson, senator for Florida, said he had been told several students were killed.

"It is quite alarming, but it appears there are a number of fatalities in this terrible tragedy."

8:55PM

"It's sad these tragedies happen in our country"

Christine Hunschofsky, the mayor of Parkland, told NBC Miami:

"It’s sad. It’s sad that these tragedies happen in our country.

"Many of the students have been in touch with their parents. We have, many many parents out here."

8:46PM

One person reported dead

Local media are now reporting one dead after the shooting. 

A local fire chief told the Miami Herald there has been one fatality, while Florida's WSVN-TV reported at least 20 people may have been injured.