Gun­man kills at least 17 peo­ple at Florida high school

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY SPENCER AND KELLI KENNEDY

PARK­LAND, Fla. — A for­mer stu­dent opened fire 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 their class­rooms shortly be­fore the school day ended, 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.

Fran­tic par­ents rushed to Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School to find SWAT team mem­bers and am­bu­lances sur­round­ing the cam­pus. Live 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 after he left the scene. He had at least one ri­fle and mul­ti­ple mag­a­zines, au­thor­i­ties said.

“It’s cat­a­strophic. There re­ally are no words,” Broward County Sher­iff Scott Is­rael said on Twit­ter.

The at­tacker used the fire alarm “so the kids would come pour­ing out of the class­rooms into the hall,” Sen. Bill Nel­son said in an interview on 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 by a U.S. of­fi­cial briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the in­for­ma­tion pub­licly.

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, he saw four dead stu­dents and one dead teacher. He said he was re­lieved when I fi­nally found his mother.

“I was happy that I was alive,” Max said. “She was cry­ing when she saw me.”

In a cul-de-sac near the school, Michael Nem­b­hard was sit­ting in his garage 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-year-old ju­nior, said he and the other stu­dents calmly went out­side to their firedrill 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 at 2:32 p.m. that said, “We’re on code red. I’m fine,” but sent an­other text shortly af­ter­ward say­ing, “Mom, I’m so scared.”

Brit­tani later was able to es­cape the school, which is one of the largest in the state, with about 3,000 stu­dents.

AP PHOTO School shoot­ing.

PHOTO/JOEL AUERBACH

Par­ents wait for news after a re­ports of a shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Fla., on Wed­nes­day. AP

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