LIVE BLOG: Multiple victims reported at Florida high school shooting, shooter in custody

(CNN) — A former student unleashed a hail of gunfire in a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing at least 17 adults and children, authorities said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered government flags flown at half-staff through Monday in honor of victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a public school of some 3,000 students outside Boca Raton.

The school is closed for the rest of the week, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. The district will offer grief counseling to students and their families.

“This has been a day where we’ve seen the worst of humanity. Tomorrow is gonna bring out the best in humanity as we come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy,” he said.

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, Runcie said. He is due in court Thursday.

The shooting, which is among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, revived debate over gun control while American politicians offered their condolences.

“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,” US President Donald Trump said.

Messages from the scene in texts and Snapchats

Law enforcement responded to reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shortly before 3 p.m. and encountered a chaotic scene.

Investigators believe the suspect pulled the fire alarm to draw people out of classrooms and increase the number of casualties, a law enforcement source told CNN. But the school already had a fire drill earlier in the day, leading some to think it was a false alarm.

While some left the building, others sought cover in classrooms as the school went into lockdown and the gunman went on his rampage.

Some students, fearing their lives would soon be over, texted goodbyes to loved ones; others used their phones to share startling footage of the carnage on social media.

One teacher said she was on her way out of the building after the fire alarm when another staff member told her the situation was code red — an active shooter. Melissa Falkowski returned to a classroom and hid in a closet with 19 students from her newspaper class for nearly 40 minutes.

Falkowski credited the fire drill and recent active shooter training with saving lives. And yet, it didn’t save enough.

“We could not have been more prepared for this situation, which is what makes it so frustrating,” Falkowski told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“We did everything that we were supposed to do. Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and still to have so many casualties, at least for me, it’s very emotional. Because I feel today like our government, our country has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.”

‘It’s really a blessing to still be alive’

Police are investigating Cruz’s digital footprint, Sheriff Scott Israel said. So far, what they’ve found is “very, very disturbing,” he said.

Law enforcement sources said the suspect used a .223 caliber, AR-15 style firearm in the shooting.

Freshman Kayden Hanafi said he heard two gunshots and saw people running out of another building on campus. As he and his classmates went into lockdown, many thought the noise might have been firecrackers.

“It’s really a blessing to still be alive,” he said.

Nicole Baltzer, 18, said she was in trigonometry class about 10 minutes before the end of the school day when the fire alarm went off. As students evacuated, she heard six gunshots and everyone started running back inside the school, Baltzer said.

“I heard so many gunshots, at least like six. They were very close,” Baltzer said.

A police officer told her to close her eyes as she walked past a classroom with broken glass, telling her “there’s nothing good to see in there,” she said.

A freshman named Aidan posted a photo on social media from inside his math class while on lockdown.

“We have been liberated. God bless, America,” Aidan tweeted after being evacuated from the building. “Love each other. You may never know when it may be the last day you meet someone.”

Terror in Florida’s safest city

The shooting sent students and staff streaming out of the school. Some walked calmly with their hands up while others ran. According to a law enforcement source, the suspect initially mixed in with the crowd of students to try to get away, but it didn’t work.

Immediately after the shooting, aerial footage from CNN affiliate WSVN showed people lying on the ground outside the school, being treated for injuries and moved to ambulances. Seventeen people, including the suspect, were sent to area hospitals, said Dr. Evan Boyar of Broward Health.

As news of the shooting spread, desperate parents gathered near the property, searching for their children at the nearby Walmart where the students and staff gathered after being evacuated.

Those who died included students and adults, the sheriff said. Twelve were killed inside the building and two died outside, he said. One died in the street and two died at the hospital, Israel said.

Parkland, with a population of 31,000 in 2016, was named Florida’s safest city last year, according to one analysis. The south Florida city had seven reported violent crimes and 186 property crimes the previous year, the analysis said.

 

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Office will hold a news conference at 9:30 this morning, and President Trump will address the nation at 10:00. We will stream both on the WHNT News 19 Facebook page.

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President Trump has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Monday.

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Nikolas Jacob Cruz, charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. This is his mug shot from the Broward County Jail

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Shooting suspect’s social media mentioned violence

School shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz had a variety of gun and violence-related postings on social media sites.

On his Instagram page, Cruz posted a photograph of a shotgun. In another photo, he is shown brandishing a pistol, which appeared to be a type of BB gun. In other photos, he is covering his face with a kerchief, and brandishing long knives.

Other postings under the name Nikolas Cruz also included threatening comments on YouTube and other sites, including “I whana shoot people with my AR-15 (sic),” “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people,” and “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.”

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School shooting suspect to appear in court Thursday

From CNN’s Rosa Flores

School shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz is expected to make his first court appearance tomorrow, according to Constance Simmons, spokesperson for Broward State attorney’s office.

Law enforcement officials tonight are searching Cruz’s home and another undisclosed location.

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Suspect bought firearm and passed background check, source says

From CNN’s Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz

The shooting suspect purchased an AR-15 style firearm in the past year, according to a US official briefed on the investigation.

The official added that he passed the background check to be able to purchase the weapon.

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AP Update: 

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says the 19-year-old suspect in the deadly school shooting, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons.”

Israel says he doesn’t know the specifics of what happened.

But Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, says Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

School officials haven’t confirmed such accounts, but say Cruz was attending another school in Florida’s Broward County after his expulsion.

One 17-year-old junior, Dakota Mentcher, says he used to be friends with Cruz but hadn’t seen him in more than a year after his expulsion. He says of Cruz: “He started progressively getting a little more weird.”

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AP Update: 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has joined law enforcement agents near the site of the deadly school shooting and offered his condolences to the victims’ families and survivors. He says the attack that claimed at least 17 lives “is just absolutely pure evil.”

Scott told reporters Wednesday evening he can’t imagine what the families of the victims are going through. He also said he would be visiting hospitalized survivors.

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County also said at the news conference that 12 of the dead have been identified but some weren’t carrying identification and that slowed confirmation efforts. The families are being notified.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says the state will cover funeral expenses for the victims and counseling for survivors.

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From Superintendent Robert W. Runcie – 

Today’s Tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School This evening, our District is dealing with an unimaginable tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. There are no words to express the sorrow that we are all feeling. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the entire Marjory Stoneman Douglas community. As our District continues to work with law enforcement – we are focusing on providing our students, families and employees with the support and resources needed to cope with this devastating situation. We have grief counselors and crisis teams ready to assist, and we will be providing details to all of our families and staff as we move forward. Dealing with this tragedy is going to take time – and we will be here for every student, every family and every staff member. Our hearts are broken. Please keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers. 

Robert W. Runcie 

Superintendent of Schools

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AP Update: 

A law enforcement official says the former student suspected of killing at least 17 people at a South Florida high school posted highly disturbing material on social media before the shooting rampage.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Wednesday the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Israel says investigators are dissecting the suspect’s social media posts and found material that is “very, very disturbing.” He didn’t elaborate.

An ex-schoolmate recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he talked of doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

A school superintendent, Robert Runcie, told reporters he didn’t know of any concerns raised about Cruz.

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AP Update:  

A student who escaped the deadly shooting at a Florida high school says he knew the suspect when he attended the school, describing him as a “weird kid” and something of a “loner.”

Authorities said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz is in custody after the attack Wednesday that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Officials say Cruz was a former student, having been expelled from the school.

Student Daniel Huerfano told The Associated Press he remembers seeing Cruz walking around the school with his lunch bag, adding, “He was that weird kid that you see … like a loner.”

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CNN Update: 

Florida governor orders flags at half-staff

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags at half-staff in honor of the victims of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Flags will be flown at half-staff at all state and local buildings and grounds throughout the state until Monday.

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AP Update: 

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords says the deadly school shooting in Florida should “strike fear into all Americans.”

The Democrat from Arizona was shot in the head and survived a shooting attack in 2011.

She said in a statement Wednesday that her heart goes out to the victims and survivors of the school shooting that claimed 17 lives in Parkland, Florida. She called it the latest attack in an epidemic of gun violence that continues “days after deadly day.”

She also says in a statement that the latest in a series of deadly U.S. shootings should stir fresh resolve in Congress to “find the courage to pass the laws we need to protect our children.”

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AP Update: 

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida says the shooter in the attack on a high school in his state wore a gas mask and had smoke grenades.

The Florida Democrat said in an interview with CNN that he was briefed on the attack by the FBI.

Nelson says the attacker “set off the fire alarm so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall. And there the carnage began.”

Nelson says he did not know if the gunman had used the smoke grenades but he assumed that’s why he had a gas mask on.

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The shooting suspect was expelled from high school. Here’s what else we know about him.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the school shooting suspect as Nikolas Cruz. Here are the details Israel provided about him:

  • He was once a student at Stoneman Douglas High School, but was expelled for disciplinary reasons. (Israel did not provide any specifics about the expulsion.)
  • He was born in September 1998 and is 19 years old.
  • He had one AR-15 style firearm and multiple magazines.
  • He was taken into custody after the shooting.
  • Deputies are looking through his social media and the websites he visited. “Some of the things that have come mind are very, very disturbing,” the sheriff said.
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AP Update: A Florida sheriff says that 12 of the 17 confirmed deaths in Wednesday’s shooting attack on a high school were found in the school.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says the attack began outside the school Wednesday afternoon.

He told reporters that authorities subsequently found 12 people dead in the building and two more dead just outside the school and one more in a nearby street. Israel says two other people died later under medical treatment.

Israel says the suspect, a 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is in custody. He says the male suspect was checked out at a hospital after his arrest and is now being held at a secure location in a public building.

Jessica Grotjahn February 14, 20185:36 pm

AP Update: 

A sheriff says 17 people have died in the shooting attack on a South Florida high school.

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County says the 19-year-old suspect is in custody and that investigators are beginning to “dissect” what happened in the attack Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

He says the suspect, a former student, was previously expelled for disciplinary reasons.

Israel says the man had at least one rifle and multiple magazines.

He says most of the fatalities were inside the building though some were found fatally shot outside.

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The shooting suspect has arrived at the sheriff’s office

The shooting suspect just arrived at the Broward County Sheriff’s office. Several officers escorted the suspect, who was wearing a hospital gown, from a police car inside the facility.

Law enforcement sources identified the suspect as Nicolas Cruz.

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AP Update: 5:40 p.m.

A man says he watched as officers arrested the suspect in the shooting at a Florida high school, where authorities are reporting numerous deaths.

Michael Nembhard told The Associated Press he was in his garage watching TV news coverage of the shooting when he heard a police officer repeatedly yelling, “get on the ground!”

Nembhard says he looked up to see a teenage boy on the ground about 150 yards (meters) away with an officer pointing a gun at him. The officer stood over the boy until other officers arrived, handcuffed him and led him away.

A federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity identified the suspect as Nicolas Cruz. The official says he wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly.

Authorities say the suspect is a former student about 18 years old.

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Source: Joel Auerbach/AP
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AP Update:

A federal official has identified the Florida school shooting suspect as Nicolas Cruz.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The official says he had been briefed on the investigation into the shooting at the South Florida high school, but was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Authorities in Florida say the shooter opened fire at the school Wednesday afternoon, killing “numerous” people. The shooting sent frightened students running out into the streets and SWAT team members swarming the building.

Authorities later announced that they had taken a former student, about 18 years old, into custody after locating him off the school grounds.

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AP Update: 

Parents described a chaotic and frightening situation as they rushed to find their children in the frantic minutes after reports of a shooting at a South Florida high school began to spread.

Caesar Figueroa says he was one of the first parents to arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. He says he saw police officers bringing out big weapons as they approached the school.

Figueroa’s office is only five minutes from the school where he sends his 16-year-old daughter.

“My wife called me that there was an active shooter and the school was on lockdown. I got on the road and saw helicopters, police with machine guns. It was crazy and my daughter wasn’t answering her phone.”

According to Figueroa, she texted him that she was hidden inside a closet at school with friends: “She was in a classroom and she heard gunshots by the window. She and her friends ran into the closet.”

Another parent, Beth Feingold, says her daughter sent a text at 2:32 p.m. saying “We’re on code red. I’m fine.” But she then sent another text soon afterward saying, “Mom, I’m so scared.” The girl was later able to escape the school unharmed.

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Teacher: I hid 19 students in a closet with me

Melissa Falkowski, who teaches English, said she hid 19 students in a closet with her during the shooting.

She said the teachers at her school had emergency training recently.

“If we didn’t have that training it could have been a lot worse,” she said.

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Student: I “jumped a fence” and ran when I heard shots

From CNN’s Sara Ganim

Justin Lewis, 16, said they had a fire drill this morning, so when they had another one at 2:30 p.m, he “just thought it was another one.”

But as they evacuated, he realized it wasn’t.

Teachers began acting “more frantically,” and then a police officer came, “with a big weapon and bullet proof vest.”

Kids started running, “and I managed to jump a fence and run to Walmart, and texted and called my mom and ran to my mom so she could pick me up,” the sophomore said.

He heard shots in the distance, but didn’t realize they were shots at the time.

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First responders at the scene of a school shooting in Florida

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