‘A HORRIBLE DAY FOR US’
17 killed at Florida high school
Aformer student armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle opened fire at a Florida high school Wednesday killing a reported 17 people.
Students were sent running out into the streets, or into hiding in closets, as the 19-year-old gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at about 2:15 p.m. and then went from classroom to classroom shooting people.
Parents of students were getting panicked texts from children even as armed police and SWAT officers were in the school searching for the gunman.
“We’re on code red. I’m fine,” Brittani Feingold said in a text to her mother, Beth, at 2:32 p.m. Shortly afterward she added, “Mom, I’m so scared.”
“It is a horrific situation,” said Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie at the scene. “It is a horrible day for us.
“It is a day you pray every day you don’t have to see.”
He added, “We received no warnings. Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said 17 were dead. Twelve of the dead victims were found in the school. Two more were found dead just outside the school and one more in a nearby street. Two other people died later under medical treatment.
Many other victims were sent to hospital. The male shooter was identified as Nicolas Cruz, said a U.S. official briefed on the investigation.
One student told CBS Miami, “(Cruz) got kicked out of school last year, he always had guns on him, he was a little bit of a troubled kid, the crazy stuff that he did was not right for school and he got kicked out of school most of the time for the stuff.”
The student said Cruz was never shy when it came to showing off his guns.
“He carried multiple guns, he showed me his guns, I actually got kicked out of school myself and he showed me personally what guns he had. A lot of times the kids wouldn’t pick on him because they knew what could go on, it was scary sometimes.”
Jim Gard, a teacher at the school, told The Miami Herald that an email had been sent out earlier warning teachers that Cruz had made some threats and wasn’t allowed on the campus with a backpack.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed the shooter was previously expelled for disciplinary reasons.
He said the shooter was outside and inside the school at points during the attack, and taken into custody “without incident” about an hour after he left the school.
Cruz was armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, Israel said, and “countless magazines.”
“This is catastrophic,” he said. “There really are no words.”
Michael Nembhard said he was sitting in his garage more than a kilometre from the school watching the coverage on TV when he heard a police officer yelling, “Get on the ground, get on the ground, get on the ground!” He looked up and about 150 metres away he saw a teenage boy on the ground and an officer pointing a gun at him. The officer stood over the boy until other officers arrived, and the boy was handcuffed behind his back and taken away, Nembhard said.
At the school, Noah Parness, a 17-year-old junior, said the fire alarm went off for the second time of the day about 2:30 p.m. He said he and the other students calmly went outside to their fire drill areas when he suddenly heard several pops.
“Everyone was kind of just standing there calm, and then we saw a bunch of teachers running down the stairway, and then everybody shifted and broke into a sprint,” Parness said. “I hopped a fence.”
Gard, the school teacher, told CBS, “We had a code red from our administration that said no movement, all doors have to be locked, get back in the classroom, don’t let anybody in, even if they’re banging on doors.”
The high school is a sprawling complex set on a tract in the South Florida community of Parkland, about 70 kilometres north of downtown Miami. It has about 3,100 students.
Television footage showed police, with weapons drawn, entering the school, then dozens of children frantically running out. A police officer waved them on, urging them to quickly evacuate.
Some students fled in single-file rows with hands raised overhead to show they carried no weapons.
Others held onto other students as they made their way out past helmeted police in camouflage with weapons drawn.
The Broward Schools department said on its website that students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire and the school immediately went on lockdown.
Caesar Figueroa said when he got to the school to check on his 16-year-old daughter, he saw police officers drawing machine guns as they approached the grounds.
“My wife called me that there was an active shooter and the school was on lockdown. I got on the road and saw helicopters. It was crazy and my daughter wasn’t answering her phone.”
She finally texted him that she was inside a closet with friends.
One pupil said a friend had texted her to say: “There’s a lot of blood.”
Len Murray’s 17-year-old son, a junior at the school, sent his parents a chilling text around 2:30 p.m.: “Mom and Dad, there have been shots fired on campus at school. There are police sirens outside. I’m in the auditorium and the doors are locked.”
A few minutes later, he texted again: “I’m fine.”
Murray said he raced to the school only to be stopped by authorities under a highway overpass within view of the school buildings. He said he told his son to save his battery and stop texting, while the boy’s mother told him to turn off his ringer.
No information has been provided yet to parents, he said. “I’m scared for the other parents here. You can see the concern in everybody’s faces. Everybody is asking, ‘Have you heard from your child yet?’” Murray said.
He said he’s had just one thought running through his mind since he got his son’s text: “All I keep thinking about is when I dropped him off this morning. I usually say, ‘I love you,’ and I didn’t this morning. He’s 17, he’s at that age, and I didn’t say it this morning, and I’m just kicking myself right now over and over and over. Say it early and often, I’m telling you.”
Lissette Rozenbley, whose daughter was evacuated from the school, told CNN: “My daughter was texting, she was very nervous, she could hear a person shot crying out for help. She was a nervous wreck. I told her ‘I love you’.”
President Donald Trump tweeted: “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Distraught parents wait for news after reports of a shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday.