logo


no avatar

School shooting in Florida

By Kyra Gurney, David Smiley and Connie Ogle • Updated Feb 14, 2018 at 10:05 PM

(UPDATED at 10:05 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018) An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a South Florida high school after police say an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding 15 more in the worst school shooting in Florida history.

Just before dismissal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, thousands of students puzzled at the sound of a fire alarm were launched into a panic when gunfire punctuated the din. As teachers and students fled through hallways and hid under desks, a gunman opened fire, leaving a trail of bodies and stunned confusion in his wake.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office says Nikolas Cruz, 19, walked the halls of the high school wielding an AR-15 and equipped with multiple magazines. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida told reporters that Cruz pulled a fire alarm and then, wearing a gas mask, began tossing smoke bombs and shooting people as they ran through the haze.

Police say Cruz gunned down a dozen people inside buildings on the school’s sprawling campus, two more on the grounds, and one more on the corner of Pine Island Road as he fled. Two more died at the hospital. Many underwent surgery at Broward Health hospitals.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office says the school, home to about 3,200 students, had been cleared by early evening. They did not identify any victims.

“It’s a day that you pray, every day when you get up, that you will never have to see. It is in front of us. I ask the community for prayers and their support for the children and their families,” Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, appearing at a media staging area near the school, told WSVN-TV. “Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”

The shooter, identified by Sheriff Scott Israel as Cruz, managed to make it off campus before he was cornered and taken into custody near the community entrance to Pelican Pointe at Wyndham Lakes in Coral Springs. He was transported to Broward Health North, and then sped away from the hospital in a police escort.

Israel, whose triplets once attended the high school, called the shooting a “detestable act” and “catastrophic.”

He did not name a motive for the shooting, which he said doesn’t immediately appear to have been prompted by any confrontation. Nor did he explain why Cruz, known by other students as a loner infatuated with guns and knives, was expelled from school beyond saying that it was for disciplinary reasons.

A teacher at the school told the Miami Herald that Cruz, 19, had been identified as a potential threat to fellow students in the past. Math teacher Jim Gard says he believes the school administration had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz had made threats against other teenagers in the past. Another student interviewed by the Herald said Cruz was punished once for having bullet casings at school.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” said Gard, who said Cruz had been in his class last year. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

The shooting began just before dismissal, after Cruz pulled the fire alarm. Students and teachers were puzzled because the school had already held a fire drill that day. Still, some left their bags by their desk and walked out of their classrooms.

Then the shots started.

“Six kids ran back into my room, and I locked the door, turned out the lights and had the kids go to the back of the room,” Gard said. “I told the kids to hang in there, it may still be a drill.”

It wasn’t.

Nicholas Coke, who was sitting in English class when the fire alarm went off, described people jumping fences, running behind the middle school and staying in classrooms to cower and pray after gunshots went off. Some students took photos and posted video to social media.

“I wasn’t going to stick around and find out what was going on,” he said.

A video posted to social media showed students hiding under desks, screaming as at least 20 gun shots rang out. Some students believed there was a second shooter at the school, but the Broward Sheriff’s Office gave no indication that was the case.

On the first floor, Geovanni Vilsant, 15, said he was in a Spanish classroom when a fire alarm went off, urging all the students out of their classrooms. Then, two minutes later, gun shots rang out enveloping the three-floor building in explosions.

Geovanni, a freshman, said he saw three bloody bodies on the floor as he was fleeing the school.

“There was blood everywhere,” he said. “They weren’t moving.”

His elder brother, who jumped a fence and sought refuge in a nearby neighborhood, ran back around to try to find Geovanni.

“I had to go back for him,” Bradley Vilsant said from a nearby Walmart where the brothers fled with about 100 other students.

Some at the school said a football coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, was shot when he jumped in front of several students, although that report remains unconfirmed.

As students hid and escaped, SWAT teams swarmed the sprawling campus. The FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, consisting of local, state and federal agents, sent a squad to the school to assist the Broward Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement.

Initially, they urged teachers and students to remain barricaded inside until police reached them. Eventually, they began clearing buildings one at a time. Students streamed out in a line with their hands up. Others ran like mad, bookbags strapped to their backs.

Federal authorities said they don’t believe the high school shootings are related to terrorism.

Worried parents trying to find their children stood by helpless. Authorities designated pick up for students at North Heron Bay Marriott, South at Betty Stradling Park.

Parents, some of whom were still searching for their kids after 8 p.m., stood about a mile away as police blocked them from getting closer to their children. Many spoke on their cellphones trying to calm their children down.

Denise Perez paced as she spoke to her daughter Marsiel Baluja. Her daughter told her that she was sitting between Publix and Walmart with a bunch of other students. They were surrounded by armed marshals.

“Just stay calm, baby,” she said.

Perez just wanted to get closer to her daughter.

“This is really hard,” she said as she cried.

Victoria Olvera, 17, a junior, was able to walk out after getting clearance by police officers. She said she was in history when she heard shots.

“Everyone started running,” she said.

As the evening wore on, and students had been safely evacuated from the school, attention turned to those who were wounded in the gunfire. Dr. Evan Boyar, medical director for the department of emergency medicine at Broward Health North, said of the eight patients at Broward Health North, three patients remained in critical condition and three were stable.

“As a human being, you can imagine that they would be in shock or be emotional about the whole situation,” Boyar said.

Boyar said the hospital routinely runs drills to be prepared for situations like this.

Doctors would not disclose details further than that regarding injuries to any of the patients or the suspect. However, Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, the medical director for trauma at Broward Health North, did say that all of the victims suffered from gunshot wounds. Three patients were still in the operating room, Nichiporenko said.

“They’re going to have successful surgeries. They’re going to recover,” Nichiporenko said. “They’re going to go home.”

* * *

(UPDATED at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018) An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a North Broward high school when a former student came onto campus and opened fire, killing and injuring multiple people.

Details remain cloudy amid a flurry of police activity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland off the Sawgrass Expressway. Students, who heard a fire alarm go off just before dismissal, followed by guns shots, fled off campus and hid under desks as police sped to the scene. Parents, blocked from getting onto campus, stood by helpless.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office is reporting “at least 14 victims.”

Multiple news outlets, including CNN and ABC, reported at least 15 were dead and others were taken to hospitals.

The shooter, a former student identified by law enforcement sources as Nicolas de Jesus Cruz, managed to make it off campus. He was cornered and taken into custody in a townhouse at Pelican Pointe at Wyndham Lakes in Coral Springs.

Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward Schools, is reporting “numerous fatalities” in the terrifying attack, the latest in America’s troubled history with guns. Many victims have been transported to Broward Health North, as has Cruz. Four others have been taken to Broward Medical Center.

“It’s a day that you pray every day when you get up that you will never have to see. It is in front of us. I ask the community for prayers and their support for the children and their families,” Runcie, appearing at a media staging area near the school, told WSVN Channel 7. “We received no warning … Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”

A teacher at the school, however, told The Miami Herald that Cruz, 19, had been identified as a potential threat to fellow students in the past. Gard says he believes the school administration had sent out an email warning teachers that the student had made threats against other in the past and that he should not be allowed on the campus with a backpack. Another student interviewed on the scene by Channel 7 said the student had guns at home.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” said math teacher Jim Gard, who said the former student suspected in the shootings had been in his class last year. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

A Broward schools spokesperson could not confirm any information about the shooter, and said Runcie was currently meeting with the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

There are 3,208 children in grades 9-12 enrolled at the school.

The shooting began just before dismissal, after someone pulled the fire alarm. Students and teachers were puzzled because the school had already held a fire drill that day.

Then a code red, school lingo for a lockdown, was read over the loud speaker.

“Six kids ran back into my room, and I locked the door, turned out the lights and had the kids go to the back of the room,” Gard said. “I told the kids to hang in there, it may still be a drill.”

On the first floor, freshman Geovanni Vilsant, 15, said he was in a Spanish classroom when a fire alarm went off, urging all the students out of their classrooms. Then, two minutes later, gun shots rang out enveloping the three-floor building in explosions.

Geovanni Vilsant said he saw three bloody bodies on the floor as he was fleeing the school.

“There was blood everywhere,” he said. “They weren’t moving.”

His older brother, who jumped a fence and sought refuge in a nearby neighborhood, ran back around to try to find his brother.

“I had to go back for him,” Bradley Vilsant said from a nearby Wal-Mart where the brothers fled with about 100 other students.

Most of the students remained calm. One high school senior elsewhere at the school told The Miami Herald that there were “SWAT teams everywhere with big guns, cops everywhere, helicopters.” She said parents trying to reach their children have been unable to make it to the school because the streets are closed off.

But by 2:40, Gard says, they knew it wasn’t a drill. Elsewhere, bullets flew. Miami Herald news partner CBS-WFOR, citing law enforcement sources, is reporting that as many as seven have been killed. Margate’s Fire Chief, whose department responded immediately to the scene, told The Miami Herald that more than 20 were injured.

Initially, the Coral Springs Police Department urged teachers and students to remain barricaded inside until police reach them. Students posted pictures to social media taken from under their desks.

Police, who flooded the school, began clearing buildings one at a time. Students streamed out in a line with their hands up. Others frantically ran, book bags strapped to their backs. The evacuation started under the direction of police officers, and the students were guided to nearby parking lots by officers as well.

Police have remained tight with information. Law enforcement and the district’s Special Investigative Unit are on site, as is the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Federal authorities said they don’t believe the high school shootings are related to terrorism.

The FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, consisting of local, state and federal agents, sent a squad to the school to assist the Broward Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement.

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

Worried parents trying to find their children stood by helpless. Authorities have designated pick up for students at North Heron Bay Marriott, South at Betty Stradling Park. Many students were being cleared by police and teachers by a Walmart near the school.

Parents stood about a mile away as police blocked him from getting closer to their children. Many spoke on their cellphones trying to calm their children down.

Denise Perez paced as she spoke to her daughter Marsiel Baluja. Her daughter told her that she was sitting between Publix and Wal-Mart with a bunch of other students. They were surrounded by armed marshals.

“Just stay calm, baby,” she said.

Perez just wanted to get closer to her daughter.

“This is really hard,” she said as she cried.

Victoria Olvera, 17, a junior, able to walk out after getting clearance by police officers. She said she was in history when she heard shots.

“Everyone started running,” she said.

———

(Miami Herald reporters Douglas Hanks, Alex Harris, Chabeli Herrera, Nicholas Nehamas, Charles Rabin, Carli Teproff, Martin Vassolo and Jay Weaver contributed to this report. Washington correspondent Alex Daugherty contributed as well.)

———

©2018 Miami Herald

Visit Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

* * *

(ORIGINAL post)

PARKLAND, Fla. — The Broward County Sheriff's Office in Florida is responding to reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, according to CNN and other media outlets.

Broward County Fire Rescue is reporting that 20 people are injured, according to CNN affiliate WSVN.

The shooter is still at large, the sheriff's office said on Twitter.

The shooting began just after 3 p.m., and the high school went on immediate lockdown, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told NBC Miami.

"It’s sad. It’s sad that these tragedies happen in our country," she told NBC Miami. "Many of the students have been in touch with their parents. We have, many many parents out here."

Parkland is located in south Florida, on the Atlantic side north of Miami and south of West Palm Beach.

More information on this developing story will be posted as it becomes available.

Recommended for You