At least 17 killed in Florida high-school shooting after ex-student opens fire

SPH Brightcove Video
A former student at a Florida high school opened fire in the school, causing "numerous fatalities" and wounding at least 14 people before he was arrested by police, authorities said.
Remote video URL
Police leading a man in handcuffs into a police car after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: WSVN.COM VIA REUTERS
Students are evacuated during the shooting incident. PHOTO: REUTERS
Swat and police are seen in Coral Springs after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. PHOTO: REUTERS
People are brought out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after a shooting there on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
Students leaving Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after a shooting there on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
People grieving outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting caused "numerous fatalities" in the school, on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
Law enforcement officers standing guard near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting, on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Students and adults leaving Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after a shooting incident, on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
Law enforcement and fire rescue vehicles forming a road block on the road to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

PARKLAND (REUTERS) - A 19-year-old gunman returned to the Florida high school where he had once been expelled for disciplinary problems and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on Wednesday (Feb 14), killing at least 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others before he was arrested, the authorities said.

The violence erupted shortly before dismissal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a placid, middle-class community about 70km north of Miami.

Television footage showed images of bewildered students streaming out of the building with hands raised in the air, as dozens of police and emergency services personnel swarmed the area.

Florida's two US senators, briefed by federal law enforcement officials, said the assailant wore a gas mask as he stalked into the school carrying a rifle, ammunition cartridges and smoke grenades, then pulled a fire alarm, prompting students and staff to pour from their classrooms into hallways.

"There the carnage began," Senator Bill Nelson told CNN.

Senator Marco Rubio gave a similar account on Twitter.

A chilling cellphone video clip broadcast by CBS News showed a brief scene of what the network said was the shooting in progress from inside a classroom, where several students were seen huddled or lying on the floor surrounded by mostly empty desks

A rapid series of loud gunshots is heard amid hysterical screaming and someone yelling: "Oh my God."

The gunman was arrested later outside, some distance from the school, in an adjacent community.

CNN, citing law enforcement sources, said the gunman tried to blend in with students who were fleeing the school, but was spotted and taken into custody.

He was identified as Nikolas Cruz, who previously attended the high school and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news briefing hours later.

Officials spelled his first name differently earlier in the day before correcting themselves. As a high-school freshman, Cruz was part of the US military-sponsored Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programme at the school, according to Jillian Davis, 19, a recent graduate and former fellow JROTC member at Stoneman Douglas High.


In an interview with Reuters, Davis recalled Cruz's "strange talking sometimes about knives and guns", adding: "No one ever took him seriously."

Chad Williams, 18, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, described Cruz as "kind of an outcast" who was known for unruly behaviour in school, including a penchant for pulling false fire alarms, and was "crazy about guns"

Remote video URL

The gunman surrendered to police without a struggle, Israel said. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple magazines of ammunition.

"It's catastrophic," Israel said. "There really are no words."

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie called it "a horrific situation".

Twelve of the dead were killed inside the school, two others just outside, one more on the street and two other victims died at a hospital, Israel said. He said the victims comprised a mixture of students and adults.

The authorities at two nearby hospitals said they were treating 13 survivors for bullet wounds and other injuries. Five of them were in critical condition, said the authorities.

The Valentine's Day bloodshed in the Miami suburb of gated communities with palm- and shrub-lined streets was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years.

It was the 18th shooting in a US school so far this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

That tally includes suicides and incidents where no one was injured, as well as the January shooting in which a 15-year-old gunman killed two fellow students at a Benton, Kentucky, high school.

Staff and students told local media that a fire alarm went off around the time the shooting started, sparking chaos as some 3,300 students at the school first headed into hallways before teachers herded them back into classrooms to seek shelter in closets.

One survivor, Kyle Yeoward, 16, a junior, told Reuters he and about 15 fellow students and a teacher hid in a closet for nearly two hours before police arrived.

Yeoward said most of the shooting occurred in the building for the school's freshman class.

Anguished parents checked on their children.

"It is just absolutely horrifying. I can't believe this is happening," Lissette Rozenblat, whose daughter goes to the school, told CNN. Her daughter called her to say she was safe, but the student also told her mother she heard the cries of a person who was shot.

The school had recently held a meeting to discuss what to do in such an attack, Ryan Gott, a 15-year-old freshman told CNN.

"My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting," US President Donald Trump said on Twitter. "No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.