Broward County, Florida, authorities have taken a suspect into custody in today’s mass shooting that resulted in “numerous fatalities” with at least 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Fourteen victims have been taken to area hospitals.
He has been identified at Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at the school.
“He was taken into custody about an hour and a half after he committed this horrific homicidal detestable act,” said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.
“This is catastrophic,” he said. “There really are no words.”
Early reports indicated “at least 50” may have been shot by the gunman who unleashed a barrage of gunfire late in the school day. The shooter was reported to have been wearing a gas mask during the rampage. The suspect was both inside and outside the school building in the course of the shootings.
There were no immediate confirmations of fatalities, but CNN reported officers had said there were two deaths. At 5 p.m., Sheriff Israel stated there were multiple fatalities, and at least one staff member injured. At 6:15 p.m., the New York TImes reported “more than a dozen” killed.
Broward School Supt. Robert Runcie said the suspect is a former student.
“There are numerous fatalities. It’s a horrific situation, it’s just a horrible day for us,” Runcie said.
“It’s a day that I pray every day we will never have to see. I ask the community for their prayers, their support.
“We received no warning. We cannot live in a world that’s built on fear. Mental health issues in this country are growing, and they’re a big challenge.”
According to one teacher, Cruz had been a problem on campus in the past.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” math teacher Jim Gard, who said Cruz had been in his class last year, told the Miami Herald. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
A student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said Cruz was always at odds with his teachers.
“He would always have problems with every single one of his teachers,” Nick Hayman, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School told CBS News. “Every single teacher he’s ever had there was problem.”
Superintendent Runcie, however, told reporters he did not know of any concerns raised about Cruz.
“We received no warnings,” Runcie said. “Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
Gunfire had been reported by staff and students both shortly before the end of the school day, and officials immediately put the campus on lockdown.
Video showed emergency personnel surrounding the location, and it also revealed several people being treated by paramedics on the scene.
Television video also showed students being led away from the building with their hands in the air.
Coral Springs police said on social media students and teachers should remain barricaded inside the school until officers can reach them.
The father of a student at the high school said the suspect pulled a fire alarm and opened fire as students left their classrooms and went into the hallway, WKBN reported. Cruz was armed with an AR-15 rifle and “countless magazines.”
Samuel Dykes, a freshman, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he was on the third floor of the school when he heard gunshots and saw several bodies in a classroom.
Warning: Graphic video:
Derval Walton was waiting to pick up her 15-year-old daughter when she received the “Code Red” text message.
“Kids were running out full of blood,” she said. “Kids were falling in the grass.”
Hannah Siren, 14, was in her third-floor math class.
“The people next door to us must have not locked their door,” she told the Sun-Sentinel, breaking into tears. “They all got shot”
“10 or … 7.”
As information from family and neighbors trickles out, a picture is forming of Cruz as young man struggling with mental problems.
He and his brother were adopted by an older couple. The father died when the boys were young and the mother died only three-and-a-half months ago. Cruz was described as being depressed following her passing.
His adopted aunt noted her sister had had difficulties with both boys.
“I know she had been having some issues with them, especially the older one. He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. [He] did have some kind of emotional or difficulties,” she said.
“They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do like not coming home on time, maybe being disrespectful.
“She did her best getting him any help he needed.”
Another relative said Nikolas had been diagnosed with autism, reported the Sun-Sentinel.
Following his mother’s death, Cruz went to live with the family of a former high-school friend around Thanksgiving. They gave him his own room, urged him to attend adult-education classes. He was working at local dollar store.
“The family is devastated, they didn’t see this coming. They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished,” said Jim Lewis, an attorney speaking on behalf of that family.
“He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”
Authorities are continuing to search for clues to Cruz’s actions.
“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Sheriff Israel said.
Parkland, with a population of 31,000 people in 2016, was named Florida’s safest city last year, according to an analysis by the Washington-based National Council for Home Safety and Security, a home security industry trade association.
The south Florida city had seven reported violent crimes and 186 property crimes the previous year, according to the analysis.
President Trump tweeted: “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.
“Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott. We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting.”