Slaugh­ter in Florida school as gun­man stalks hall­ways

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - AUDRA D.S. BURCH PA­TRI­CIA MAZZEI PARK­LAND, FLA.

At least 17 dead after mass shoot­ing by ex­pelled stu­dent at high school near Fort Laud­erdale

A heav­ily armed young man barged into his for­mer high school about an hour north­west of Mi­ami on Wed­nes­day, open­ing fire on ter­ri­fied stu­dents and teach­ers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, au­thor­i­ties said.

Stu­dents hud­dled in hor­ror in their class­rooms, with some of them train­ing their cell­phones on the car­nage, cap­tur­ing sprawled bodies, screams and gun­fire that be­gan with a few shots and then con­tin­ued with more and more. The dead in­cluded

stu­dents and adults, some of whom were shot out­side the school and others in­side the sprawl­ing three­storey build­ing.

The gun­man, armed with a semi­au­to­matic AR-15 ri­fle, was iden­ti­fied as Niko­las Cruz, 19, who had been ex­pelled from the school, au­thor­i­ties said. He be­gan his shoot­ing ram­page

out­side Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in this sub­ur­ban neigh­bour­hood shortly be­fore dis­missal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way in­side and pro­ceeded down hall­ways he knew well, fir­ing at stu­dents and teach­ers who were scur­ry­ing for cover, the au­thor­i­ties said.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” one stu­dent yelled over and over in one video cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia, as gun­fire boomed in the back­ground.

An­other video showed po­lice of­fi­cers burst­ing into a class­room to evac­u­ate stu­dents. “Hands! Hands! Put your hands up!” an of­fi­cer or­dered. “Put your phones away!”

This is cat­a­strophic. There re­ally are no words. SCOTT IS­RAEL BROWARD COUNTY SHER­IFF

By the end of the ram­page, Mr. Cruz had killed 12 peo­ple in­side the school and three out­side it, in­clud­ing some­one stand­ing on a street cor­ner, Broward County Sher­iff Scott Is­rael said. Two more vic­tims died of their in­juries in lo­cal hos­pi­tals. The af­ter­math at the school was an eerie shrine, with chairs up­ended, a com­puter screen shat­tered with bul­let holes and floors stained with blood.

“This is cat­a­strophic,” said Mr. Is­rael, who has three chil­dren who grad­u­ated from the high school. “There re­ally are no words.”

Mr. Cruz was ar­rested in Coral Springs, a neigh­bour­ing city a cou­ple of miles from the school, about an hour after flee­ing the scene, au­thor­i­ties said. He had slipped out of the build­ing by mix­ing in with crowds of stu­dents. In ad­di­tion to the ri­fle, Mr. Is­rael said Mr. Cruz had “count­less mag­a­zines.”

The gun­man had clearly pre­pared for the at­tack, Sen­a­tor Bill Nel­son of Florida said in an interview after speak­ing to the FBI.

“The shooter wore a gas mask, had smoke grenades, and he set off the fire alarm so the kids would come out of the class­rooms,” said Mr. Nel­son, cit­ing details he learned from the FBI. Mr. Is­rael said he did not know the gun­man’s mo­tive.

Mr. Is­rael said law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials had al­ready dis­cov­ered ma­te­rial on Mr. Cruz’s so­cial-me­dia ac­counts that was “very, very dis­turb­ing.”

Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, said Mr. Cruz was in his class in 2016 and ap­peared to be a “quiet” stu­dent. But Mr. Gard also re­called that “there was con­cern” about his be­hav­iour on the part of the school ad­min­is­tra­tion, which e-mailed teach­ers re­lay­ing those fears.

Mr. Gard said that after the shoot­ing, he learned from sev­eral stu­dents that Mr. Cruz was ob­sessed with a girl at the school to the point of “stalk­ing her,” a point au­thor­i­ties did not raise in news brief­ings near the scene.

The mas­sacre called to mind the coun­try’s two mass shoot­ings that have come to be known by the name of the schools: Columbine, the high school out­side Den­ver where 12 stu­dents and a teacher were killed in 1999; and Sandy Hook, the el­e­men­tary school in New­town, Conn., where 20 stu­dents and six adults were

I tried to stay calm. Stu­dents were run­ning ev­ery­where. DIANNA MILLERET A 16-YEAR-OLD SOPHOMORE

shot dead in 2012.

More than 40 “ac­tive shooter” episodes in schools have been recorded in the United States since 2000, ac­cord­ing to FBI and news re­ports. Two 15-year-old stu­dents were killed and 18 more peo­ple were in­jured last month in a school in ru­ral Ben­ton, Ky. The shoot­ings have be­come com­mon enough that many schools, in­clud­ing Dou­glas High, run an­nual drills in which stu­dents prac­tise hud­dling in class­rooms be­hind locked doors.

Mr. Nel­son said the episode made him re­live re­cent shoot­ings that also shook the state.

“Forty-nine slaugh­tered at the Pulse night­club. An­other hand­ful slaugh­tered at the Fort Laud­erdale air­port, just a year ago, in the same county where this took place,” he said. “And that’s just Florida.”

After the gun­fire had stopped Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon and Mr. Cruz had fled, stu­dents ran out of the school, some in sin­gle file with their hands on the shoul­ders of those in front of them and others in all­out sprints.

As the stu­dents sought cover, lawen­force­ment of­fi­cers armed with mil­i­tary­grade weapons swarmed the build­ing.

Par­ents rushed to a lo­cal Mar­riott ho­tel to re­unite with their chil­dren.

“I tried to stay calm. Stu­dents were run­ning ev­ery­where,” said Dianna Milleret, a 16-year-old sophomore who heard the gun­shots.

Noelle Kaiser, 17, was in his­tory class when a fire alarm went off. The class was gath­ered just out­side the build­ing when she heard three dis­tinct gun­shots.

“I am in shock,” she said softly after clutch­ing her mother, Ch­eryl Kaiser, on the side­walk out­side the school.

Seven­teen pa­tients were treated in three area hos­pi­tals, in­clud­ing two who died, said Dr. Evan Bo­yar of the Broward Health Sys­tem. All suf­fered gun­shot wounds. “It is a hor­rific sit­u­a­tion,” Robert W. Run­cie, the Broward schools’ su­per­in­ten­dent, told CNN. “It is a hor­ri­ble day for us.”

Park­land, an af­flu­ent sub­urb of Fort Laud­erdale with a pop­u­la­tion of about 30,000, is known for its good pub­lic schools. Dou­glas High is among the largest in the Broward school dis­trict, with about 3,000 stu­dents.

JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IM­AGES

Stu­dents are led from Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School after a shoot­ing at the school Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon in Park­land, Fla.

Par­ents and fam­ily of stu­dents gather un­der the Saw­grass Ex­press­way just south of Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Fla., on Wed­nes­day.

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