A shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday sent students rushing out into the streets as SWAT team members swarmed in and locked down the building. School officials said they had received reports of numerous fatalities and multiple injuries.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Wednesday afternoon that 17 people were killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The shooting suspect, 18-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was taken into custody shortly before 4 p.m.
Students who knew the shooter, described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him, particularly after the fight that led to his expulsion.
Coral Springs Police said on their Twitter account Wednesday that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was locked down and that students and teachers inside should remain barricaded until police reach them.
Len Murray’s 17-year-old son, a junior at the school, sent his parents a chilling text around 2:30pm: “Mom and Dad, there have been shots fired on campus at school. There are police sirens outside. I’m in the auditorium and the doors are locked.”
A few minutes later, he texted again: “I’m fine.”
Ambulances converged in front of the school, and TV news broadcasts showed at least one person being wheeled to an ambulance on a gurney.
Live footage also showed emergency workers appearing to treat possibly wounded people on the sidewalks. It wasn’t immediately clear how many were wounded. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the shooter was still at large even as the evacuation was underway.
Television footage showed police in olive fatigues, with weapons drawn, entering the school, then dozens of children frantically running and walking quickly out. A police officer waved the students on, urging them to quickly evacuate. Some students exited the building in single-file rows with hands raised overhead to show they carried no weapons. Others held onto other students as they made their way out past helmeted police in camouflage with weapons drawn.
The Broward Schools department said on its website that it had received reports of “possible multiple injuries” and was dismissing students.
The shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms. The department said students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire and the school immediately went on lockdown. Watch live coverage below.
Murray said he raced to the school only to be stopped by authorities under a highway overpass within view of the school buildings. He said he told his son to save his battery and stop texting, while the boy’s mother told him to turn off his ringer.
No information has been provided yet to parents, he said. “I’m scared for the other parents here. You can see the concern in everybody’s faces. Everybody is asking, ‘Have you heard from your child yet?’” Murray said.
Murray said he’s had just one thought running through his mind since he got his son’s text: “All I keep thinking about is when I dropped him off this morning – I usually say, ‘I love you,’ and I didn’t think morning. He’s 17, he’s at that age, and I didn’t say it this morning, and I’m just kicking myself right now over and over and over. Say it early and often, I’m telling you.”
The high school is a sprawling complex set on a tract in the South Florida community of Parkland, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) north of downtown Miami.
The school had just over 3,100 students in the 2016-2017 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Major streets run along two sides and an expressway passes nearby on the other not far from a residential neighborhood of single family homes.