Sur­vivors de­scribe car­nage at Florida high school mas­sacre

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By TERRY SPENCER

FORT LAUD­ERDALE, Fla. - Stu­dents and teach­ers who sur­vived a Florida high school mas­sacre told in­ves­ti­ga­tors how they watched class­mates die, had bul­lets whiz past them and hud­dled in fear un­til they were res­cued by po­lice, in some of the most dra­matic records re­leased so far from the mass shoot­ing.

Prose­cu­tors re­leased the state­ments Fri­day from the Feb. 14 shoot­ing Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School, where a gun­man killed 17 peo­ple. The redacted state­ments are the lat­est ev­i­dence re­leased un­der Florida law that makes it a pub­lic record when it is turned over to de­fense at­tor­neys.

Stu­dents and teach­ers de­scribed class­mates be­ing shot and dy­ing in front of them, and bul­lets shat­ter­ing glass, de­stroy­ing com­put­ers and slam­ming into walls. They talked of hid­ing in ter­ror un­til they were res­cued and then walk­ing over dead bod­ies as po­lice evac­u­ated them from the build­ing.

Oth­ers de­scribed watch­ing in puz­zle­ment as the 19-yearold sus­pect Nick­o­las Cruz walked past among evac­u­at­ing stu­dents, know­ing he had been kicked out of Stone­man Dou­glas a year ear­lier, and trou­bling and racist en­coun­ters they'd had with him be­fore the shoot­ing.

Th­ese are some of their sto­ries. Some stu­dent names in the re­port are redacted and oth­ers are not, but The As­so­ci­ated Press is not nam­ing any stu­dents as they are ju­ve­niles.

The shooter, us­ing a high­pow­ered AR-15 semi-au­to­matic ri­fle, started firing in a first-floor hallway of the Stone­man Dou­glas fresh­man build­ing near where a ninth­grade girl was sit­ting in class writ­ing an es­say on her lap­top.

A mem­ber of the school's Ju­nior Re­serve Of­fi­cer Train­ing Corps, she heard two loud bangs but thought they were Valen­tine's Day bal­loons pop­ping. She and her teacher ex­changed a re­as­sur­ing look but about 10 sec­onds later a bul­let game through the door and shat­tered her com­puter screen. An­other bul­let grazed her arm and an­other went through her shirt.

“That's when ev­ery­one start­ing freak­ing out and the teacher started scream­ing, say­ing to take cover,'' the girl said. She said ev­ery­one tried to hide be­hind the teacher's desk but there wasn't enough room.

She said she ran back to her desk, grabbed her phone and called 911. She said a girl who was stand­ing got hit in the chest and slid down the wall. She said a boy shot in the chest clung to a desk hy­per­ven­ti­lat­ing but soon went limp. An­other boy was shot in the head, but he never lost con­scious­ness - she used part of her JROTC shirt to ap­ply pres­sure to his wound.

Po­lice soon ar­rived in the room and as she and her class­mates were es­corted out, leav­ing be­hind the boy, the girl and an­other girl who had died. She saw five or six more bod­ies in the hall.

An al­ge­bra teacher on the sec­ond floor said she was walk­ing to­ward a sneezing stu­dent when she rec­og­nized gun­shots in the hall and im­me­di­ately called a “Code Red'' - an ac­tive shooter alert - in her class. She had placed tape on her class­room's floor mark­ing off the sec­tion that couldn't be seen from the win­dow in the door and the stu­dents knew to dash to that part.

She heard more and more gun­shots and gath­ered her stu­dents close to her, play­ing with girls' hair and telling the stu­dents she could hear help com­ing to try to calm them. The fire alarm then went off, but she wasn't about to evac­u­ate her room.That saved her stu­dents be­cause she thinks she saw the shooter go past the win­dow. Many who died were on the third floor and were in the hallway evac­u­at­ing when the gun­man came up the stair­well and mowed them down.

She said one “very strong young man'' placed him­self against the wall and was go­ing to be the class's “hero,'' charg­ing the gun­man if he got into the room. But when the door opened it was po­lice of­fi­cers, who led them out.

One stu­dent who knew Cruz said she was stand­ing on the ath­letic field af­ter be­ing evac­u­ated when she saw him in the crowd. She said that struck her as strange be­cause he had been kicked out of Stone­man Dou­glas a year ear­lier.

“I didn't know what he was do­ing there,'' she said.

An­other said he spoke briefly to Cruz at the nearby Wal­mart where evac­u­ated stu­dents were taken.

“I said like I thought you got ex­pelled last year. And he's like no the school took me back in,'' he said, adding that he be­lieved him. “He was pretty scared. He was like all ter­ri­fied.'' Later, he lost sight of Cruz and didn't see him again.

The boy said also said he had known Cruz dur­ing his sopho­more year, and that Cruz often would talk about vi­o­lence and bring knives and bul­lets to school. He also brought dead an­i­mals in bags. “He used to show ev­ery­one, `Oh, look I'm so proud of the killing.''

He also said Cruz made racist re­marks about Jews and blacks, and drew Nazi sym­bols. He said he agreed with Hitler that “all Jews were dead and stuff.''

Cruz's at­tor­neys have said he would plead guilty in ex­change for a life sen­tence with­out pa­role. Prose­cu­tors have said they will seek the death penalty.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LAW & CRIME

Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School

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