At least 17 people were killed on Wednesday after a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told media Wednesday.
The suspect was taken in custody, and there are at least 14 injured victims who were taken to hospital, he added. The 17 fatalities included 12 people within Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two just outside, one on a nearby road, and two who died in hospital.
Israel said the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had at least one AR-15 and multiple magazines. He added that Cruz was a former student at the high school who was expelled for disciplinary reasons.
“This truly makes me sick to my stomach,” Israel said. “It’s horrible. It’s catastrophic.”
Broward County School District superintendent Robert Runcie said there was no evidence of multiple shooters, nor did the school receive warnings or threats before the gunfire.
“It’s a horrific situation. It’s just a horrible day for us,” he said. “It’s a day that you pray every day that you get up that you will never have to see. It is in front of us, and I ask the community for your prayers, your support for these children and these families.”
The Coral Springs Police Department said on Twitter around 2:45 p.m. local time that the high school was locked down and to avoid the area. The nearby Westglades Middle School was also placed on lockdown and began releasing students around 5:30 p.m. local time.
Police also told students and teachers still inside the high school to remain barricaded until authorities arrived.
Television footage taken from a helicopter showed heavily armed police gathering at one of the school’s entrances and students evacuating the campus, holding their hands above their heads.
The footage showed several students being treated for injuries and at least one being loaded onto a gurney.
One student told local Fox affiliate WSVN that he’d heard the school’s fire alarm go off and initially believed a drill was underway. He said he then heard popping sounds and left the school with his classmates.
One girl, who declined to be identified, told WSVN she was a graduate of the school and had returned on Wednesday to visit a teacher. She said she was standing in front of the school’s tennis courts when she heard the fire alarm go off.
“We thought it was just another fire drill cause we had one earlier,” she said. “I head five pops. I was, like, ‘That’s not a drill; we never had a drill like that.’”
One parent, John Obin, told Associated Press that his son was in class when the gunfire broke out. His son told him teachers pressed students to evacuate, and when they did so his son walked by what looked to be two dead bodies.
“This is a really good school and now it’s like a war zone,” Obin said.
Broward County Public Schools said on Twitter that students at the school heard “what sounded like gunfire” close to dismissal time.
One student tweeted chilling photos barricaded from inside one of the classrooms. Two hours after posting the first tweet, the freshman, named Aiden, posted a photo from outside the school.
Police identified the suspect as Nicolas Cruz. Several of his former peers and high school teachers also identified him to media outlets and said Cruz had a history of threatening behaviour.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” the suspect’s former maths teacher, Jim Gard,told The Miami Herald. “There were some problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Another student told WSVN that the suspect had shown him photos of his guns, adding that he “wasn’t shocked” the suspect was his former peer.
“He shot guns because he felt it gave him… an exhilarating feeling,” the student said. “I didn’t want to cause any conflict with him because that was the impression he gave off.”
Cruz’s parents released a statement on Wednesday expressing grief and asking forgiveness for their son’s behaviour, WSVN reported.
“We ask for nothing but forgiveness for our son’s behaviour,” the statement read. “We are grieving as much as you are please give us time to accept this reality.”
Broward County is near Fort Lauderdale. The high school has 3,208 students enrolled between grades nine and 12, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
US President Donald Trump was briefed on the shooting, his representative said. Trump later tweeted that he had spoken with Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
“We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting,” Trump said. “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Scott was reportedly en route to the school on Wednesday afternoon. “My thoughts and prayers are with the students, their families and the entire community,” he tweeted.
Here’s a map of the school and the location where police arrested the suspect:
CBS Evening News published mobile phone-video footage of students huddled under their desks as shots could be heard in the background.
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) February 14, 2018
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