At least 17 people were dead after a 19-year-old former student opened fire at a South Florida high school on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The suspect was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a former student who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland for disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. He said at least 14 other people were injured in addition to the 17 people killed.
Officials believe the gunman had one AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and multiple magazines, but it was unclear whether he had any other weapons. The gunfire began outside the school and continued inside, where 12 of the victims were killed, Israel said.
Authorities initially spelled Cruz’s first name as “Nikolaus” but later corrected the spelling. He was taken into custody off campus about an hour after he “committed this horrific, detestable act,” said Israel, who said investigators were reviewing social media postings that he described as “very disturbing.”
Federal and local authorities told NBC News that there was no indication that the gunman had an accomplice or accomplices.
What we know so far:
- 17 people were killed, according to officials, both inside and outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
- The shooting started around 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday as the fire alarm sounded
- A suspect, Nikolaus Cruz, 19, a former Douglas High student believed to have been armed with a semiautomatic rifle and multiple magazines, is in custody
Parkland, in north Broward County, is about 30 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale. The shooting on the sprawling campus happened despite the presence of police officers at the school.
Broward County schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said at last two police cars were typically on campus “on a daily basis.”
While students filed out of the school with their hands up, heavily armed SWAT team members conducted a class-by-class search to make sure there were “no other shooters” — and to retrieve any bodies, he said.
Israel, who said his triplets once attended that school, urged worried parents to head to a nearby Marriott hotel to collect their children.
“This is a terrible day for Broward County, the state of Florida, the United States,” he said. “There really are no words.”
The first sign that something awful was happening came around 2:30 p.m., not long before classes were supposed to have been dismissed, when authorities were called to respond to an active shooter.
For more than an hour, the school was at the mercy of a gunman on the loose.
“He was outside and inside the school,” Israel said.
Just after 4 p.m., the Broward County Sheriff’s Office announced on Twitter that the suspect had been apprehended.
Not long after, stunned survivors began sharing their accounts of what happened.
“I was on the first floor of the building where the shots happened first,” freshman Jason Snytte told NBC News. “I was in the classroom right next to the outside, the closest classroom to it. It started there. I heard six or seven shots. Our door was open. I ran and closed it, and everybody ran into a corner.”
Jason, who said the shots were deafening, said they listened to their teacher and stayed put until police arrived and told them to evacuate.
“We were all freaking out. Our hearts were racing,” he said. “We didn’t know what was happening.”
Several students told NBC News that the school had gone through a fire drill earlier in the day. They said the fire alarm sounded again just before the shots were heard.
Relieved parents like Lisette Rozenblet, whose daughter attends the school, also said she was told that a fire alarm was pulled about the time the shots began. But her daughter’s teacher, sensing that it might be a trap, told the students to stay in the classroom, she said.
“Her biggest fear is a school shooting,” Rozenblet said of her daughter. “She is always begging me to be home-schooled because she was scared of this.”
Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told NBC Miami that the school went into immediate lockdown.
“It’s sad that these tragedies happen in our country,” she said. “Many of the students have been in touch with their parents. We have many, many parents out here.”
Joel Leffler, whose son and daughter attend the school, said both of his kids were safe — but in shock.
“My son called me as it was unfolding, running. He had to jump a fence,” Leffler said. “My son heard around eight gun shots as he was running out.”
When he reached his daughter by phone, she was whispering, he said.
“My daughter, who was there in the freshman hall where the shooting took place — she’s in shock right now, and she’s being taken out by SWAT,” Leffler said. “She saw multiple dead bodies.”
Agents from the FBI’s Miami Division were on the scene, along with agents from the Miami Division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
President Donald Trump was briefed and was monitoring the situation, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who was traveling to Broward County to be briefed by emergency management officials and law enforcement, has been in touch with Trump and the Department of Homeland Security, his office said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called it “that terrible day you pray never comes.”