A 19-year-old former student armed with an AR-15 opened fire inside a South Florida high school on Wednesday, police said, killing at least 17 people in the latest burst of deadly violence to erupt inside an American school.
The shooting sparked a brief, intense manhunt across the quiet suburban community of Parkland, Fla., locking teachers and students huddled inside classrooms until officers captured the young man they said had gunned down his former peers.
A dozen people were killed inside the school, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Wednesday evening. Three more died outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, while two others died at area hospitals. Others wounded in the shooting were still undergoing surgery, he said.
“It’s a horrific, horrific day,” said Israel, noting that his triplets had graduated from the same school where the shooting occurred.
The shooting was the latest in a long line of violent attacks that have shattered the peace inside schools, movie theaters, churches, offices and other public places. Once again, bullets tore through school hallways as students and teachers sought shelter. Once again, lives were cut short and others irrevocably, painfully changed. Once again, the nation watched with horror as they again confronted the unthinkable.
For Israel’s department, the shooting at Douglas marked the second time in a little over a year that they have responded to a mass shooting. In January 2017, Broward Sheriff’s deputies rushed to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to respond to a gunman who got off of a plane, pulled out a gun and began firing at other travelers, killing five people.
Authorities said the Valentine’s Day rampage at Douglas began outside the building before the gunman headed inside not long before classes were to be dismissed for the day. Police identified the suspected gunman as Nikolaus Cruz, 19, and said he had been a Douglas student who was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons. (Police also spelled his first name as “Nikolas.”)
“It’s just catastrophic,” Israel told reporters at a news briefing. “There really are no words.”
It was possible Cruz may have also attended J.P. Taravella High School, which is not far from Douglas, but that was not clear, Israel said.
Police did not immediately detail a possible motivation for the shooting. Investigators have begun digging into Cruz’s activities online and on social media, and what they found so far was “very, very disturbing,” Israel said, though he did not elaborate. (Washington Post)