A TROUBLED YOUTH ALLEGEDLY KILLS 17 AT THE SCHOOL THAT EXPELLED HIM
The deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook erupted Wednesday as authorities say a 19-year-old man with a troubled past and an AR-15 rifle stalked the halls of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Expelled from the school over disciplinary problems, Nikolas
Cruz is accused of squeezing off shot after shot as students took cover under desks, fire alarms blared and teachers barricaded classrooms. By the time it was over, 17 people were dead or dying, and 16 were wounded.
Cruz was arrested off campus and taken to Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. Although some students described Cruz as a normal teenager, others and some of his neighbors called him strange, troubled and depressed.
A firearms enthusiast whose adoptive mother died Nov. 1,
Cruz talked about shooting lizards, squirrels and frogs, said Trevor Hart, who knew him from Spanish class and said he seemed “a little off.”
Police were called to his house numerous times, said a former neighbor, Shelby Speno.
“He wore a hoodie and always had his head down,” said Janine Kartiganer, a former neighbor. “He looked depressed.”
Panicked parents streamed to this affluent section of northwest Broward County on Wednesday afternoon, as news helicopters broadcast the incident live, police officers crouched behind cars with guns
I don’t want to go back to this school. I can’t go up the stairs. There’s blood on the stairs.
Christina Vega Student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
drawn and students congregated on streets, many crying, hugging, and calling friends and family.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said 17 people were killed, including students and adults, with two shot outside the school, one in the street, 12 inside the school and two dying from their wounds at the hospital.
Five of the victims remain unidentified, he said. Students’ IDs were in their backpacks, which they abandoned as they attempted to flee.
This was the worst school shooting since 26 children and adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
Investigators have begun analyzing Cruz’s social media accounts, which the sheriff said contained material that was “very, very disturbing.”
Hannah Siren, 14, was in math class on the third floor of the freshman building, where at least part of the shooting reportedly happened.
“The people next door to us must have not locked their door,” Hannah told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel newspaper, breaking into tears. “They all got shot” — seven to 10 victims, she said.
Another student told WSVN-TV that when she ran into a classroom on the third floor to hide, a geography teacher opened the door to let her in, and when he started closing it, the teacher “was shot and killed right there,” she said. “The door was open, (the gunman) could have walked in at any time.” The students hid in the corner and survived.
“He kind of shielded them,” one of his students, Christina Vega, told the television station. “He actually stepped up.”
Vega added: “I don’t want to go back to this school. I can’t go up the stairs. There’s blood on the stairs.”
Throughout the school, students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and closets. In one classroom video that went viral on social media, students cowered beneath desks, sobbing and screaming as repeated gunshots can be heard nearby.
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” a student cried out.
One student claimed to have met the gunman at an off-campus learning center after getting kicked out of school.
“He’s been a troubled kid, and he’s always had a certain amount of issues going on,” the student told WSVN-TV, saying the suspect previously had shown him pictures of guns on his cellphone.
The student added another concern: The suspected gunman himself had probably participated in the school’s active-shooter drills. “He’s been in the drills multiple times, so he knows where to go.”
A student who did not give his name told WFOR-TV that Cruz was a junior at Douglas High School when he was expelled last year. He said that students would joke that if anyone were to open fire inside the school, it would be Cruz. Because of that, students feared him and mostly stayed away from him, the student said.
“A lot of people were saying that it would be him. They would say he would be the one to shoot up the school. Everyone predicted it.”
The suspect’s mother, Lynda Cruz, died Nov. 1. She was 68.
Family member Barbara Kumbatovich of Long Island, N.Y., said she heard media reports about the mass shooting in Florida but had no idea the suspect was the son of her recently deceased sister-in-law.
Lynda and her husband, Roger, who died many years ago, adopted Nikolas and another boy, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island to Broward County.
Lynda had always wanted to have children and the couple adopted later in life, Kumbatovich said. “I think it was just something she really wanted to do.”
The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their adoptive mother died, she said.
“I know she had been having some issues with them, especially the older one. He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. (He) did have some kind of emotional or difficulties,” Kumbatovich said.
Nikolas’ father died from a heart attack, the relative said, and Lynda had sought counseling for Nikolas at a young age. “She did her best getting him any help he needed.” The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times contributed to this report.
Parents waited for news Wednesday after they received reports of a shooter opening fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. At left, police evacuated students from the school.
Parents met at a hotel in Coral Springs, Fla., Wednesday to pick up their children.