Shooting at Florida High School Leaves 17 Dead

A former student has been charged in the attack

John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Students console each other after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14.

A heavily armed young man stormed into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers. Authorities say 17 people died in the attack, but the death toll could rise even higher.

The gunman was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school. He began his shooting rampage outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, shortly before dismissal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way inside, firing at students and teachers, the authorities said. Students huddled in fear in their classrooms, with some of them using their cellphones to record the attack.

By the end of the rampage, Cruz had killed 12 people inside the school and three outside it, including someone standing on a street corner, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Two more victims died of their injuries in local hospitals. On Thursday, the authorities charged Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

“This is catastrophic,” said Sheriff Israel, who has three children who graduated from the high school. “There really are no words.”


Jim McMahon/Mapman®

Cruz was arrested in Coral Springs, a neighboring city a few miles from the school, about an hour after fleeing the scene, the authorities said. He had slipped out of the building by mixing in with crowds of students.

The gunman had clearly prepared for the attack, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said in an interview after speaking to the FBI.

“The shooter wore a gas mask, had smoke grenades, and he set off the fire alarm so the kids would come out of the classrooms,” said Nelson, citing details he learned from the FBI. Several students said they found it strange to hear the alarm, because they had already had a fire drill earlier in the day.

Sheriff Israel said he didn’t know the gunman’s motive but that law enforcement officials had already discovered material on Cruz’s social media accounts that was “very, very disturbing.”

Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, said Cruz was in his class in 2016 and appeared to be a “quiet” student. But Gard also recalled that “there was concern” about his behavior on the part of the school administration, which emailed teachers relaying those fears.

The massacre called to mind other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, in which 20 students and 6 adults were killed.

More than 40 “active shooter” episodes in schools have been recorded in the U.S. since 2000, according to FBI and news reports. Two 15-year-old students were killed and 18 more people were injured last month in a school in rural Benton, Kentucky. The shootings have become common enough that many schools, including Stoneman Douglas High, run annual drills in which students practice huddling in classrooms behind locked doors.

Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Students evacuate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14.


After the gunfire had stopped Wednesday afternoon and Cruz had fled, students ran out of the school, some in single file with their hands on the shoulders of those in front of them and others in all-out sprints. As the students sought cover, law enforcement officers swarmed the building. Parents rushed to a local hotel to reunite with their children.

“I tried to stay calm. Students were running everywhere,” said Dianna Milleret, a 16-year-old sophomore who heard the gunshots.

Noelle Kaiser, 17, was in history class when a fire alarm went off. The class was gathered just outside the building when she heard three distinct gunshots.

“I am in shock,” she said softly after clutching her mother, Cheryl Kaiser, on the sidewalk outside the school.

Parkland, an affluent suburb of Fort Lauderdale with a population of about 30,000, is known for its good public schools. Stoneman Douglas High is among the largest in the Broward school district, with about 3,000 students. The school will remain closed for the rest of the week. Florida Governor Rick Scott directed the state to lower its flags to half-staff until Monday.

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

For more on how students are responding to the tragedy, click here.

For more on the debate about guns in America, click here.