Police identify gunman as former student Nikolas Cruz, 19. Cruz had ‘countless magazines, multiple magazines’ – officials
This article titled “Florida school shooting: at least 17 people dead on ‘horrific, horrific day'” was written by Oliver Laughland in Parkland,Richard Luscombe in Miami and Alan Yuhas in New York, for The Guardian on Thursday 15th February 2018 08.53 UTC
Seventeen people were confirmed dead as the United States endured another horrifying school shooting at the hands of a teenage gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle.
Twelve people died inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Two died just outside the building, one died in a nearby street and two victims died in hospital, a Broward County sheriff confirmed.
After initial reports of a shooter, officers surrounded the campus, directing the evacuation of hundreds of students from the scene, while other teens hid inside closets and under desks to stay safe. Students later told reporters that they at first thought alarms in the school were a fire drill, until they heard gunshots in the hallways.
By 6.30pm local time, Broward County sheriff Scott Israel confirmed the grim news: “It’s a horrific, horrific day. My triplets attended this school, and it’s horrible, just horrible.”
Israel later said in a news conference that a football coach was among those killed.
Medical staff said a total of 17 patients had been taken to three hospitals – two patients died, at least three more were in critical condition. The suspect was also treated and released into police custody.
Sheriff Israel identified the killer as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Israel said Cruz had been “expelled for disciplinary reasons” and that police had found “very disturbing” material when searching Cruz’s social media. (The sheriff’s office had previously released incorrect spellings of his name.)
Israel said: “He had countless magazines, multiple magazines. One AR-15. I do not know if he had a second.”
Photograph: Wilfredo Lee/AP
At the hotel rendezvous for students and parents, dozens of family members congregated underneath an archway beside the school, anxiously waiting for their children.
A 15-year-old student who did not want to be named told the Guardian he had been in the same building where the gunman opened fire.
“I heard three gunshots,” the student said. “And then some more down the corridor.
“We shut our classroom door and stood to the side of it so we wouldn’t be seen. Twenty minutes later the police broke in through the glass. I was terrified.”
Jordyn Dahan, a 19-year-old who lives in the neighbourhood and has friends who attend the school and work there, said she had texted with a friend who teaches English: “She told me the shooter was in the hallway near her classroom. The shooting was really loud, and there were people shot through the door.”
Sivan Odiz, a 23-year-old local resident with close family friends in the school, said a 15 year-old friend of her brother had been inside a classroom targeted by the shooter. She had been in contact with the student after the shooting happened: “He said he pretended to be dead, but when he got up, there were two people shot. He’s really shaken up.”
Families were emotional as they reunited after hours of confusion.
Stacy Crescitelli said her 15-year-old daughter was in drama class when the shooting began. The mother held back tears as she read one of the texts her daughter, Sarah, had sent her while she was on lockdown: “‘If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.’”
Her husband, John, a family doctor, was working at one of the nearby hospitals when victims started arriving. He said he had to leave to try and find his daughter: “What if I go over there and my daughter is one of the victims coming in? I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
Police eventually escorted Sarah and her classmates out of the school, unharmed.
“This has got to stop. This is insanity,” said John.
A teacher, Melissa Falkowski, described to the CNN how she hid with 19 children for more than 40 minutes.
“It was the end of the school day and the fire alarm went off, and we went to evacuate as if it was a fire drill,” Falkowski said. “We got maybe 15-20 steps out of the classroom and we were told we were on code red. We ran back inside to the classroom and got down, crouched down into the closet.”
She said the experience was “the nightmare scenario that you hope never happens to you”.
At 4.11pm, over an hour after the sheriff’s office warned the public that the shooter was “still at large,” the department tweeted: “Shooter is now in custody. Scene is still active.”
A few minutes earlier, helicopter footage showed seven officers putting handcuffs on a man in a dark burgundy shirt. They placed him inside a police cruiser.
Cruz was arrested outside of the school campus.
Sheriff Israel said: “This is a terrible day for Parkland, Broward County, the state of Florida and the United States.” He said: “It’s just catastrophic, there are no words.”
Robert Runcie, Broward County’s superintendent of schools, said investigators believed the suspect acted alone.
“It’s a day you pray every day we will never have to see,” he added. “It is in front of us, and I ask the community for their prayers and support for these children and their families.”
Disturbing video acquired by CBS News from a student’s cellphone showed a scene of terror inside a classroom after the gunman opened fire. On the video, gunshots can be heard in the halls, answered by children screaming in their classroom, huddled on the floor away from windows.
Falkowski, the teacher, said the school “could not have been more prepared for this situation”, adding, “We have trained the kids for what to do … We did everything that we were supposed to do.”
“I feel today like our government, our country, has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe,” she continued.
During the escape, children fled the building through parking lots and across fields, many running through the parking lot with hands up or still dragging backpacks behind them. Lines of police, armored vehicles, ambulances and paramedics embraced them.
The tragedy appears to be the eighth deadliest mass shooting in modern US history and one of the worst-ever school massacres.
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