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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.


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