17 killed in Florida school shooting, ex-student arrested, sheriff says

Sheriff: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter was former student

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - At least 17 people were killed Wednesday after a former student opened fire at a north Broward County high school, according to local law enforcement and emergency officials.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the gunman is in custody in connection a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

This is a developing story. Here is what News 6 recently confirmed about the shooting:

  • 17 people were confirmed dead, school superintendent says 'there are numerous fatalities'
  • 16 have been taken to area hospitals, the Associated Press reports
  • A former student, NiKolas Cruz, 19, is in custody, federal officials say
  • Parent staging area at the Marriott 11775 Heron Bay Blvd, Coral Springs 

The Broward County Sheriff's Office responded to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Pine Island Road at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday for reports of a shooting.

Twelve people were killed inside the school, three were killed outside the building and two at the hospital, Israel said. Other officials said they expected that number to grow.

The sheriff identified Nikolas Cruz, 19, as the suspected gunman and said he was a student at the school at one time, but was not at the time of the shooting.

Israel said Cruz has "countless magazines" and at least one AR-15 rifle. Cruz displayed troubling signs on social media and was suspended from Stoneman Douglas at least once, Israel said.

He said the shooter was outside and inside the school at points during the attack, and taken into custody "without incident" about an hour after he left the school. Israel said police were waiting for the SWAT team to give them the all-clear so that they could go inside.

Live video showed officers placing someone in a red shirt in handcuffs and putting him into the back of a patrol car. Cruz was taken to the hospital then booked into the Broward County Jail.

Deputies said at least 14 victims have been taken to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North.

"There are numerous fatalities. It is a horrific situation," Broward County Schools superintendent Robert Runcie said. "It's just a horrible day for us."

Authorities told students and staff via social media to shelter in place until police could reach them, but about 90 minutes after the shooting, police started clearing students out of the school.

A photo from inside a classroom showed students under their desks.

Ambulances converged at the scene as emergency workers appeared to be treating possibly wounded people on the sidewalks.

Aerial footage of the campus showed armored vehicles and police in olive fatigues, with weapons drawn, entering the school, then dozens of children running and walking quickly out, some of them holding Valentine's Day balloons and stuffed bears. A police officer waved the students on, urging them to quickly evacuate the school.

Authorities asked people to avoid the area. Deputies said parents should wait at the staging area at the Marriott at 11775 Heron Bay Blvd. in Coral Springs until everything is clear.

"Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students are being escorted to the corner of Holmberg Road and Pine Island Road to be reunited with parents and families," Broward County Schools tweeted.

Gov. Rick Scott said he was in contact with Broward County officials and is traveling to Parkland to be briefed by emergency management officials. Scott said he spoke with President Donald Trump regarding the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Good school now 'a war zone'

Parkland is a city of more than 20,000 people outside Boca Raton in Broward County. Stoneman Douglas High School had an enrollment of about 3,100 students in the 2015-16 year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Caesar Figueroa says he was one of the first parents to arrive at the school Wednesday after hearing reports of a shooting. 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 hiding 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.

Parent John Obin says his son, a freshman, was in class when he heard several shots. The father says his son said that teachers quickly rushed students out of the school. He adds the boy told his father that he walked by two people on the ground motionless — and apparently dead — as students rushed outside.

"This is a really good school, and now it's like a war zone," Obin said

One unidentified student told a reporter at the scene that at first students thought it was a fire drill because they had heard fire alarms going off.

This is the deadliest school shooting in Broward County history, Broward County Schools superintendent Robert Runcie said.

Every school in Broward County has school resources on each campus and police were at the high school during the shooting, Runcie said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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