A former student opened fire at a South Florida high school Wednesday afternoon, killing 17 people and wounding at least a dozen others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the city of Parkland, officials said.
The suspected gunman, Nikolas Cruz, 19, was quickly arrested “without incident” in nearby Coral Springs, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Officials think he acted alone. Cruz had been expelled from the school for disciplinary problems and had made “disturbing” posts on social media before the attack, Israel said.
“It’s a horrific situation. It’s just a horrible day for us,” said Broward County Public Schools Supt. Robert Runcie.
Several students reported first hearing gunshots after someone pulled a fire alarm. Hannah Siren, 14, was in math class on the third floor of the freshman building, where at least part of the shooting reportedly happened.
“The people next door to us must have not locked their door,” Hannah told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, breaking into tears. “They all got shot” — seven to 10 victims, she said.
Samuel Dykes, a freshman, added that he heard gunshots and saw several bodies in a classroom on the third floor.
Another student told WSVN-TV that when she ran into a classroom on the third floor to hide, a geography teacher opened the door to let her in, and when he started closing it, the teacher “was shot and killed right there,” she said. “The door was open, [the gunman] could have walked in at any time.” The students hid in the corner and survived.
“He kind of shielded them,” one of his students, Christina Vega, told the television station. “He actually stepped up.”
Throughout the school, students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and closets. In one classroom video that went viral on social media, students cowered beneath desks, sobbing and screaming as repeated gunshots can be heard nearby.
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” a student cried out.
Law enforcement personnel and ambulances swarmed to the scene. Police in olive fatigues, with weapons drawn, entered the school, and dozens of students ran or quickly walked out. Some students walked in a chain with their hands on the shoulders of the students in front of them. A police officer waved the students on, urging them to evacuate the school.
Emergency workers appeared to be treating victims for injuries on sidewalks outside the school. Parents gathered at the perimeter, some of them Christians with ash on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday, some wearing hearts to mark Valentine’s Day.
President Trump tweeted about the shooting and said he had spoken to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” Trump tweeted. “We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting.”
Victims were taken to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North hospital.
Margate-Coconut Creek Fire Rescue Chief Dan Booker said there were some fatalities, but he was not sure how many.
“We’ve got possibly more than 20 patients; it’s an active scene now,” Booker said.
Helicopter footage from WSVN-TV showed police searching a person with short hair, wearing a dark red shirt and dark pants. The person was handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser without apparent struggle.
The Coral Springs Police Department told students and teachers to stay barricaded until police reached them. The department said the school’s perimeter was locked down and advised residents not to call 911 unless there was an emergency.
Other students spoke to WSVN-TV after fleeing the campus. “Three shots happened, and then everyone started freaking out,” said one student, who identified himself as Sebastian. “We all thought it was a fire drill. … No one was that nervous, but when word started going around that it was shots … everybody started running.”
Another student who declined to give her name reported hearing “five pops” after someone pulled a fire alarm.
“Kids were freaking out. Some kids froze; some were on their phones. Some were trying to Snapchat because they thought it was a joke, and it wasn’t,” she said.
One student claimed to have met the gunman at an off-campus learning center after getting kicked out of school.
“He’s been a troubled kid, and he’s always had a certain amount of issues going on,” the student told WSVN-TV, saying the suspect previously had shown him pictures of guns on his cellphone. “I stayed clear of him” in the alternative school because “I didn’t want to be with him at all … because of the impression he gave off.”
The student added another concern: The suspected gunman himself had probably participated in the school’s active-shooter drills. “He’s been in the drills multiple times, so he knows where to go.”
Times staff writer Jaclyn Cosgrove and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
3:35 p.m.: This article was updated with authorities identifying the suspect and saying 17 people were killed.
3:25 p.m.: This article was updated with an additional student account and the latest information from authorities on the suspect and victims.
2:45 p.m.: This article was updated with new information on victims and additional reaction.
1:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.
12:20 p.m. This article was updated with details from the scene.