For­mer stu­dent opens fire at Florida high school, killing 17

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - By Terry Spencer and Kelli Kennedy

PARKLAND, FLA. » A for­mer stu­dent opened fire with a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle at a Florida high school Wed­nes­day, killing at least 17 peo­ple and send­ing scores of stu­dents flee­ing into the streets in the na­tion’s dead­li­est school shoot­ing since a gun­man at­tacked an ele­men­tary school in New­town, Con­necti­cut.

The shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw stu­dents out of class­rooms shortly be­fore the day ended at one of the state’s largest schools, of­fi­cials said.

Au­thor­i­ties of­fered no im­me­di­ate de­tails on the 19-year-old sus­pect or any pos­si­ble mo­tive, ex­cept to say that he had been ex­pelled for dis­ci­plinary rea­sons from Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School, which has about 3,000 stu­dents.

Fran­tic par­ents rushed to the school to find SWAT team mem­bers and am­bu­lances sur­round­ing the huge cam­pus. Live tele­vi­sion footage showed emer­gency work­ers who ap­peared to be treat­ing the wounded on side­walks.

“It is a hor­rific sit­u­a­tion,” said Robert Run­cie, su­per­in­ten­dent of the school dis­trict in Parkland, about an hour’s drive north of Mi­ami. “It is a hor­ri­ble day for us.”

The sus­pect was taken into cus­tody with­out a fight about an hour later in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood about a mile away. He had mul­ti­ple mag­a­zines of am­mu­ni­tion, au­thor­i­ties said.

“It’s cat­a­strophic. There re­ally are no words,” Broward County Sher­iff Scott Is­rael told re­porters.

The at­tacker used the fire alarm “so the kids would come pour­ing out of the class­rooms into the hall,” Sen. Bill Nel­son told CNN.

“And there the car­nage be­gan,” said Nel­son, who said he was briefed by the FBI.

The Florida Demo­crat said he did not know if the gun­man used the smoke grenades, but he as­sumed that’s why he had a gas mask on.

Most of the fa­tal­i­ties were in­side the build­ing, though some vic­tims were found fa­tally shot out­side, the sher­iff said.

The gun­man was iden­ti­fied as Niko­las Cruz.

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 was in class when 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, 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.”

Michael Nem­b­hard was sit­ting in his garage on a cul-de-sac when he saw a young man in a bur­gundy shirt walking down the street. In an in­stant, a po­lice cruiser pulled up, and of­fi­cers jumped out with guns drawn.

“All I heard was ‘Get on the ground! Get on the ground!’” Nem­b­hard said. He said he could not see the sus­pect’s face, but that the man got on the ground with­out in­ci­dent.

The day started nor­mally at the school, which had a morn­ing fire drill. Stu­dents were in class around 2:30 p.m. when an­other alarm sounded.

Noah Par­ness, a 17-yearold ju­nior, said he and the other stu­dents calmly went out­side to their fire-drill ar­eas when he sud­denly heard pop­ping sounds.

“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.”

Beth Fein­gold said her daugh­ter, Brit­tani, sent a text that said, “We’re on code red. I’m fine,” but sent an­other text shortly af­ter­ward say­ing, “Mom, I’m so scared.” She was later able to es­cape.

In­side, stu­dents heard loud bangs as the shooter fired. Many of them hid un­der desks or in clos­ets and bar­ri­caded doors.

Tele­vi­sion footage showed stu­dents leav­ing in a sin­gle-file line with their hands over their heads as of­fi­cers urged them to evac­u­ate quickly.

The evac­u­a­tion scene was rem­i­nis­cent of the New­town at­tack, which shocked even a coun­try numbed by the reg­u­lar­ity of school shoot­ings. The Dec. 14, 2012, as­sault at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School killed 26 peo­ple — 20 first­graders and six staff mem­bers.

The 20-year-old gun­man, who had also fa­tally shot his mother in her bed, then killed him­self.

When Cae­sar Figueroa got to the Florida school to check on his 16-year-old daugh­ter, he saw po­lice of­fi­cers wield­ing guns as they ap­proached the cam­pus.

JOHN MC­CALL — SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SEN­TINEL VIA AP

Stu­dents re­leased from a lock­down em­brace fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wed­nes­day.

JOHN MC­CALL — SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SEN­TINEL VIA AP

Med­i­cal per­son­nel tend to a vic­tim fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wed­nes­day.

MIKE STOCKER — SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SEN­TINEL VIA AP

Stu­dents are evac­u­ated by po­lice from Mar­jorie Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wed­nes­day af­ter a shooter opened fire on the cam­pus.

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