‘This is catastrophic’: 17 are killed in rampage
Several more in critical condition; suspect a former student
PARKLAND, Fla. – A former student went on a shooting rampage at a Florida high school Wednesday, leaving 17 dead while panicked students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and frantic parents raced to the scene.
The gunman, who had been expelled and didn’t graduate, was identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Cruz was armed with “countless” magazines and an AR-15-style rifle.
Cruz was arrested a short distance from the school near a home, a law enforcement official who is not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY. Students recognized the suspect during the assault, he said.
Flanked by officers, the suspect was later escorted into a police station wearing a hospital gown.
“This is catastrophic,” Israel said. “There are really no words.”
The shooting happened about 2 p.m. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which is about 30 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale, according to the Coral Springs Police Department.
The 17 dead include students and adults, Israel said. Others were injured and taken to local hospitals, including at least 14 who were treated at Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach. Several are in critical condition. Students said chaos ensued when a fire alarm sounded in the school near dismissal time — then the gunfire started. Israel said Cruz started shooting outside then made his way through the school’s hallways.
He wore a gas mask and used smoke grenades “so the kids would come out in the hallways and thus, he had the opportunity with crowded hallways to start picking off people,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told MSNBC.
Student Rebecca Bogart, 17, wasn’t sure whether the reports of shooting were a drill at first.
The school had a fire drill earlier that day, and she knew it was somewhat common to do an active shooter drill.
It wasn’t until the windows of her first floor classroom shattered and Bogart saw a bullet near the shades did she understand what was happening.
“It was really hard to be calm,” Bogart said. “My friend was holding my hand.”
Bogart said that’s what she and her classmates tried to do as they hid from the shooter.
Though she couldn’t see them from under the teacher’s desk where she was hiding, Bogart said she could hear four of her classmates screaming in pain from injuries.
She added she didn’t know whether they had been shot.
When SWAT officers entered the classroom, they escorted students out. As Bogart walked down the hall, she saw students covered in blood.
Officers told the students to get as far away as possible. Bogart said she walked miles before stopping to get picked up by her father.
“I’m still in shock right now,” she said.
Television footage showed the terrifying moments outside the school. Students ran single file from the building with their hands in the air — throwing backpacks into a large pile and huddling under trees across the street.
As students scrambled to safety, law enforcers with weapons drawn approached the building.
The gunman was expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons,” but Israel didn’t elaborate.
Cameras captured authorities taking Cruz into custody and to a local hospital. Police said the gunman was a member of the JROTC program.
Parents wait for news after gunfire was reported Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.