Parkland, FL – Police have arrested the gunman who opened fire at a south Florida high school on Valentine’s Day, killing 17 students and teachers, and injuring many more.
“This truly makes me sick to my stomach. It’s horrible. It’s catastrophic,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said during a press conference on Wednesday evening.
“Seventeen people lost their lives. It’s a horrific, horrific day,” the sheriff said.
Sheriff Israel said 12 of the 17 victims were fatally shot inside the freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 14.
Sheriff Israel said that two more victims were fatally shot outside the building, and one was found dead on the street, at the corner of Pine Island.
He said two more victims died at the hospital, and many more wounded people were still in surgery.
He didn’t know how many of the victims were students, and how many were adults. The number of additional wounded remained unconfirmed.
“He had multiple magazines and one AR-15 rifle – I don’t know if he had a second weapon,” the Sheriff Israel said.
Police said Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student who had been expelled from Douglas High School, opened fire on students and at least one teacher, the Miami Herald reported.
Afterwards, Cruz managed to escape campus and get to a townhouse at Pelican Pointe at Wyndham Lakes in Coral Springs.
Shortly after 4 p.m., police took Cruz into custody at the home located at 11735 NW 47th Street, only a mile and a half from the high school.
He was transported to North Broward Hospital via ambulance, with a police escort. Cruz was then transported from the hospital to the Broward County jail for processing. His second transport involved a large motorcade, as seen from the WSVN’s news helicopter.
Sheriff Israel said that Cruz had been expelled from Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons, although he did not have the specifics.
When asked by reporters if there had been signs warning of the impending massacre, Sheriff Israel said there likely were.
“I believe there will be after our investigators finish dissecting his social media,” the sheriff said. Initial pictures from Cruz’s Instagram account showed him posing repeatedly with guns and knives.
Students posted terrifying videos from inside the classrooms during the shooting, and reported heroic efforts by their teachers to keep them safe from the massacre.
One teenage girl told WSVN that she was in the stairwell, evacuating the building for what students believed was the second fire drill of the day, when she heard gunshots.
She said students ran back to the classrooms from which they’d come to hide.
She said that initially she heard gunshots coming from the floor below them, and then she heard gunshots in the hallway outside the classroom.
The girl said her teacher ran back to open the classroom for the students.
“I just bolted into our same classroom, and we just hid in the corner,” she said.
Before her teacher had a chance to close and lock the door, he was shot dead by Cruz.
His body lay in the open doorway, and she said the students hid quietly as Cruz walked past their open door.
Jim Gard, a math teacher, said Cruz had been his student last year, and that the school administrators had sent out a warning email about him.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard told the Miami Herald. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Another student who spoke with WSVN said he’d known Cruz and gone to school with him at “OCLC,” an alternative high school for problem students.
“It doesn’t shock me that it was him,” he said.
He said Cruz had been a troubled kid who frequently talked about the guns he had.
“He shot guns because they gave him an exhilarating feeling,” the student told WSVN.
During the interview, which took place before Cruz was arrested, the student expressed concern for the safety of the students still huddled inside the building because he said Cruz knew the emergency routine at the school.
“He’s been in the drills multiple times so he knows where to go … for any student that’s still inside,” he said.
WSVN reported that the school had recently done an active shooter training drill with the students that may have helped save some lives during the Valentine’s Day massacre.
Students at Westlake Middle School nearby said they could clearly hear the gunshots from the high school. The middle school went into lockdown, and students hid for 2 ½ hours watching live coverage of what was happening outside.
The scene was utter chaos as hundreds of students tried to evacuate the campus at the same time officers from every police department in the region were arriving on the scene. At publication time, many parents were still waiting to be reunited with their children, and some had not yet heard from their students.
“I heard from one parent that one of the hockey kids that plays with my boy was shot and being rushed to the hospital – he’s a 15 year old,” one father told WSVN as he waited to see his daughter.
Florida Governor Rick Scott was on his way to the scene in south Florida, and President Donald Trump posted a tweet of condolence and support.
“This is a bad day for Florida and for the country. And you can imagine the grief of parents right now, not knowing, as well as the students, not knowing,” Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said from his Washington, DC office.
Sheriff Israel said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Broward County Sheriff's Office would be handling the follow up investigation of the rampage.