RAMPAGE AT FLA. SCHOOL
A 19-year-old former student armed with an assault rifle and “countless magazines” gunned down at least 17 people at a South Florida high school yesterday during the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a 2012 attack on an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., authorities said.
Equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, Nikolas Cruz triggered a fire alarm at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., to draw students out of their classrooms shortly before the school day ended, officials said. And though they didn’t suggest a motive for the rampage last night, authorities said Cruz was a former student of the school who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons.
John Obin, 14, said his English teacher, Mrs. Cunningham, desperately held the door to their classroom shut as gunfire echoed through the hallway of the school’s freshman building.
It wasn’t until heavily armed police officers smashed the window to the classroom and led them out to safety that he was certain it wasn’t an active shooter drill, he said.
“I walked outside and saw two bodies lying in the hallway,” Obin told the Herald, “And another one outside the school.”
Andy Pedroza, 18, told the Herald he was on his way back to class when the sound of “popping noises” prompted him to take shelter in a nearby bathroom.
“My instincts kicked in,” he said, adding that in the 20 minutes he was hiding, he heard gunshots in the hallway outside the door.
Paul Brower, the assistant dean for enrollment at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., was inside the school on a recruiting trip when the shooting happened, and was trapped there but unharmed as it unfolded.
“Even while we were sitting there the students that we were meeting with were getting social media messages about friends of theirs that had been hurt,” he told WFXT (Ch. 25) last night. “They lost one of their coaches apparently in this tragedy. It was pretty intense for those students.”
Cruz was taken into custody without incident about an hour after he left the scene. He had at least one rifle and “countless magazines,” Sheriff Scott Israel said.
The 17 people who were killed in the shooting, Israel said, were a mix of students and teachers. Twelve were killed inside the building, others were shot outside.
Monique Golberg, of Boynton Beach, Fla., told the Herald she got a text from her daughter letting her know her school was under attack.
“She was texting me that she’s OK,” Golberg said. “That it was real and that she was scared.”
The day started normally at the school, which had a morning fire drill, and students were in class about 2:30 p.m. when another alarm sounded.
Cruz used the fire alarm “so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said in an interview on CNN.
“And there the carnage began,” said Nelson, who noted he was briefed by the FBI.
The Florida Democrat said he didn’t know if Cruz used the smoke grenades, but assumed that’s why he had a gas mask on.
The gunman was identified by a U.S. official briefed on the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the information publicly.
Student Daniel Huerfano said he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo in which Cruz had posed with a gun in front of his face. He recalled that Cruz was shy when he attended the school and remembered seeing him walk around with his lunch bag.
Cruz “was that weird kid that you see ... like a loner,” he said.
Freshman Max Charles said he heard five gunshots.
“We were in the corner, away from the windows,” he said. “The teacher locked the door and turned off the light. I thought maybe I could die or something.”
As he was leaving the building, Charles said he saw four dead students and one dead teacher. He said he was relieved when he finally found his mother.
“I was happy that I was alive,” Max said. “She was crying when she saw me.”
The school is one of the largest in the state, with about 3,000 students.
The shooting also brought out political anger over gun control, with Bay State U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton tweeting last night: “I agree with every word @realDonaldTrump said here. I invite him to get off his ass and join me in trying to do something about it.”
CARNAGE: Medical personnel tend to a victim, top, and students react following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.