‘This is cat­a­strophic’: 17 are killed in ram­page

Sev­eral more in crit­i­cal con­di­tion; sus­pect a for­mer stu­dent

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Christal Hayes and Emily Bo­hatch

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.

JOEL AUER­BACH/AP

Par­ents wait for news af­ter gun­fire was re­ported Wed­nes­day at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Fla.

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