Suspect in Florida school massacre charged with 17 murders
PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – A 19-year-old man who had been expelled from his Florida high school was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, after authorities say he unleashed one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
The ex-student, identified as Nikolas Cruz walked into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday and opened fire on students and teachers, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Police believe he acted alone.
Cruz was expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon for a bond hearing, said Constance Simmons, a spokeswoman for the state attorney’s office.
Cruz was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple ammunition magazines when he surrendered to officers in a nearby residential area, police said. He loved guns and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, police and former classmates said.
The shooting in a community about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami was the 18th in a U.S. school this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, continuing a troubling pattern that has played out over the past few years.
It was the second deadliest shooting in a U.S. public school after the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
The deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 32 people were killed.
“This community is hurting right now,” Israel told a press conference on Thursday. “We will interview every single student and every person in that school who possibly might know something.”
The Florida shooting stirred the long-simmering U.S. debate on the right to bear arms, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Schools across the country have installed electronically secured doors and added security staff, but few legislative solutions have emerged.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behaviour,” U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Thursday. “Neighbours and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
Trump plans to address the nation from the White House at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT), a spokeswoman said.
FBI WAS TIPPED
Cruz had recently moved in with another family after his mother’s death in November, according to Jim Lewis, a lawyer representing the family and local media, bringing his AR-15 along with his other belongings.
The family believed Cruz was depressed, but attributed that to his mother’s death, not mental illness.
“They didn’t see any danger,” Lewis told CNN.
Cruz may have left warning signs on social media. Buzzfeed reported that a person named Nikolas Cruz left a comment under a YouTube video that read “I‘m going to be a professional school shooter.” The man who posted the video was alarmed and contacted the FBI, Buzzfeed reported.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Lasky told reporters on Thursday the bureau received the 2017 tip but said investigators had been unable to locate the person who made the comment.
“No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time location or the true identity of the person who made the comment,” Lasky said.
South Florida remained on edge on Thursday. Miami’s main criminal courthouse building was put on lockdown after an unspecified threat was reported, Miami-Dade County’s state attorney said on Twitter.
Another Broward school briefly also went on lockdown after reports of a shooting, which turned out to be unfounded, local media reported.
The first victim of the attack was publicly identified on Thursday as Aaron Feis, an assistant coach on the school’s football team and a school security guard who was shot while shielding students, the team said on Twitter.
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 classrooms into hallways, according to Florida’s two U.S. senators, who were brief by federal authorities.
Colton Haab, a 17-year-old member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at the high school, said he realized the alarms were not a drill after hearing several shots fired.
“That for me changed it to an active shooter scenario,” he said. Haab rushed to his ROTC room and helped usher several dozen students inside, barricading them behind curtains made of Kevlar, a material used to make bullet-proof vests.
“We grabbed two pieces of two-by-four, a fire extinguisher and a chair,” Haab said. “We were going to try to stop him with whatever we had.”
GRAPHIC: Florida school shooting – tmsnrt.rs/2nX8ECo
Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Parkland, Florida, Jonathan Allen in New York, Susan Heavey in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by John Stonestreet and Jeffrey Benkoe
Source: Reuters Latest News